Open Heart Kitchen serves meals to low income seniors


Nadya C

Seniors line up at the open heart kitchen for free meals.

Nadya Carreira, AVT Features Editor

The Open Heart Kitchen in Pleasanton has been serving low income seniors meals twice a day from Monday to Friday since 2005. Meals are currently organized by a nutritionist and distributed from a kitchen in Danville to 3 locations in the Tri-valley area.

“I have been working here for 17 years since it opened. On average we get around 95 to 100 people come in for dinner, and about the same amount [of people] for lunch. We’re the only location in the Tri-Valley that serves twice a day,” said site supervisor Evelyn Mattioli

Evelyn is one of the many staff members who help distribute food and run the program. But unlike her, most of the staff are new to the organization, employed right when the pandemic began due to a shortage of volunteers. 

“I’ve been coming here for 2 years. Every day they’re open and I pick up food for my mother-in-law and myself. I think the food here is delicious, and the staff is wonderful. Evelyn, who runs the program here is great, she knows everybody’s name and always greets them and makes them feel welcome,” said senior resident Olga Rasmussen. 

Residents and Benefits

Most of the people that come in are residents in the community at Ridgeview Commons, a senior home for low-income tenants. Staff help seniors sign in and pick up their food, and they usually go back to their rooms to eat. 

“When they have music, there’s more people, but usually people take their food and go to their rooms. Sometimes a man will come in and play the piano, and then everyone stays and eats for longer,” said Rasmussen. 

Seniors benefit from the healthy meals that they otherwise most likely wouldn’t have the means to afford. Every day there are several options of courses for people to choose from, including a vegetarian option. 

“There were probably five people volunteering at a time prior to COVID. There were a lot of people to serve. My most memorable experience was handing out soup to a family I recognized from my son’s school,” said Open Heart Kitchen volunteer Sheri Paul, also a mother of an Amador Valley High School student. 

Nearly 1 in 3 people in Alameda county live below or near the poverty line. 50% of low-income families in the county spend half their income on housing. Open Heart Kitchen raises awareness as well as provides for these people through programs like senior meals and hot lunches. “We don’t just serve food, we help create an inviting community for these seniors. Some of my favorite moments are playing dominos or card games after meal service, or when the Girl Scouts troops come to sing Christmas Carols for our seniors after dinner,” said program coordinator Christi Williams.