On a recent visit to Springs Rescue Mission (SRM) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Citygate Network President John Ashmen and Dr. Robert Marbut, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) discovered the implementation of an innovative solution to the dining challenges presented when following CDC protocols for congregant feeding.
After utilizing their 2,000 square foot dining room and kitchen for over a decade, SRM held a grand opening at the tail end of 2019 to inaugurate a 10,000 square foot facility designed to seat 200 diners around circular tables, allowing more guests to enjoy a hot meal together. Only a couple months later, the Coronavirus changed everything, and they had to adapt to a new normal.
COVID presented a dining challenge because of the close proximity. Thanks to the Citygate Network member calls, we were very conscientious about the dangers of congregate dining...
Both the USICH and CDC acknowledged that virus outbreaks within congregant shelters could typically be traced to dining hall exposure. During the regular network-wide calls we hosted for our members, experts suggested seating guests at either end of a 6-foot standard rectangular table or distributing bagged meals to avoid triggering this kind of spread.
Terry Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at SRM, explained the dilemma. “COVID presented a dining challenge because of the close proximity. Thanks to the Citygate Network member calls, we were very conscientious about the dangers of congregate dining, especially at round tables where people are taking off their mask and talking to one another.” But after distributing to-go meals for a while, Terry said, “We would pass out sack lunches or sack dinners, and people would go out to the rest of the campus or out onto the street and sit right next to each other on the curb talking without a mask and eating. It was completely defeating the notion of creating social distance by providing a sack meal.”
They (our guests) get to interact with our staff beyond just getting handed a sack meal and walking away. The whole experience is much more dignified and has profoundly raised the level of safety.
A SRM staff member began researching solutions and discovered an innovative product that would restore face-to-face dining experiences. It was a game-changer for SRM, according to Terry. “It turns out that this shield creates the opportunity for an eight-top table to accommodate four people at a time. They can still see and talk to each other. Then our staff sanitizes the tables and shields for the next round. It’s allowed us to continue to serve a … hot meal. They get to interact with our staff beyond just getting handed a sack meal and walking away. The whole experience is much more dignified and has profoundly raised the level of safety.”
To learn more about this remarkable solution to a problem that has stumped so many missions and ministries around North America, check out the Professional Plastic’s website.