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September 20, 2020
 
Pandemic Leads Community Servings to Revive COO Role
Kevin Conner
Kevin Conner

August 8, 2020 — Surging demand due to the coronavirus pandemic led Community Servings, a Jamaica Plain-based nonprofit that delivers meals tor the critically ill in their homes across the state, to recently re-institute a chief operating officer position, which coincides with a shift in reliance on volunteers to more paid staff.

Kevin Conner, who most recently served as food service director for Community Servings, will now oversee all operations and meal deliveries in his capacity as COO, as well as all facilities, information technology, and the Teaching Kitchen program that has been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic and will relaunch with a social entrepreneurial element next year.

He also will oversee COVID-19 safety measures to ensure that all staff, including those in the kitchen and making deliveries, are adequately equipped with personal protective equipment and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“Kevin has been an integral member of our team since he joined Community Servings, and his culinary expertise and passion for our mission are ideal for this new operational leadership role,” said David B. Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “As our organization continues to grow, and as we face uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Kevin will undoubtedly help us manage that growth and meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

Since the pandemic hit Massachusetts in March, Community Services has experienced a 30% increase in the number of people it serves, while the number of meals it serves shot up 50%, from 10,000 to 15,000 means each week.

Since the start of the pandemic, Community Services has delivered 228,000 meals. This year, due to increasing demand, the agency expects it could prepare and deliver close to 800,000 scratch-made medically-tailored meals, a 40% increase from 2019.

The COO job had been vacant since August 2019, when the former COO left the organization. At that time, Community Servings opted to keep the slot unfilled as part of a rethink of its executive team. At that time, Conner was promoted from executive chef to the then new role of food service director.

Since the start of the pandemic, in addition to increasing its kitchen and delivery capacity, Community Servings is working with more food vendors and partners to limit disruptions to the food supply chain and ensure it can source the food products needed to prepare upwards of 3,200 meals per day.

It also said it shifted our business operations, which relied heavily on 50 to 75 volunteers per day, to more paid staff to maintain the safety of our building and streamline operations, which will require hiring additional kitchen, delivery, nutrition, and client services staff.

To date, it has hired several from among laid-off food service workers who are graduates of the organization's Teaching Kitchen job training program. Other major changes include investing in remote work technology so staff can continue to work off-site due to issues with child care or pre-existing health conditions, and increasing safety and sanitation of building and delivery vans, and continuation of its “no contact” delivery protocol.

Community Servings today employs 60 full-time and five part-time staff.

“I am inspired by the warm, positive atmosphere in our kitchens and excited by the health care community’s increasing acceptance of medically tailored meals as an important intervention in treating critical and chronic illnesses," said Conner.

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