To Feed the Soul, This Organization Is Providing Snacks to COVID-19 Patients in Isolation Facilities
Testing positive for COVID-19 leads to a couple of realizations: You’ll soon need to retreat to an isolation facility and, away from family and friends, you'll have a lot of time on your hands. On top of the fear that something is happening inside your body, there’s also the crushing feeling of being alone.
Previously, Rise Against Hunger Philippines had been focusing its efforts to distribute food to communities affected by the lockdown. At the start of the pandemic, the relief organization conducted feeding programs around the country with donations from its network of sources, usually big corporations.
Now, as the pandemic and its attendant problems evolve, the mission of Rise also expands. With the opening of more isolation facilities, specifically the soon-to-open wards in the University of the Philippines’ Kamia Residence Hall and the Ateneo de Manila University high school classrooms, the organization has been tapped by the Philippine Red Cross to provide more food for COVID-19 patients.
Why Snacks Are Important for Patients in Isolation
As Jomar Fleras, executive director of Rise Against Hunger Philippines, explains, local government units (LGUs) provide hot meals to patients, but what about the in-between—the nibbles, the munchies, the ready-to-eat snacks? That’s what Rise donates, the biscuits, chocolates, and fruits (and, of course, bottled water or juice packs) from food manufacturers, BPOs, and other generous institutions.
Now, you might think that little bites are inconsequential in the bigger picture of the pandemic, but for patients spending time in isolation, these cookies and juice can make the day a little more bearable. For Rise, food goes beyond hushing a rumbling belly. It can help boost the immune system, which is important during the pandemic and, in the case of snacks, lift the spirit, too.
The organization has already provided snack packs to the Quezon Institute Mild COVID-19 Isolation Facility. Here, Fleras notes how operating rules for donations have changed: To minimize contact, Rise’s food donations are now endorsed to healthcare workers, who then handle its distribution to patients in isolation wards. Hence, the executive director did not see the beneficiaries of Quezon Institute in person, but according to healthcare workers, these snacks made a difference.
Three square meals a day may not be enough (or, if they are enough, may not be satisfying) for some. And then, there are the times like, say, in the middle of the night when there is no one to talk to. What can patients, who are not allowed to go out, do? This is when a small bite can be a salve to listlessness and loneliness.
“I also would like to believe that the mere knowledge that there are people out there donating food to them will give them hope and boost their morale,” he adds.
How Food Helps Conquer Fear
Apart from its work with isolation wards, Rise has also funneled snacks to other aspects of the pandemic. Working with LGUs in Paranaque, Pasig, and Taguig, it provides the same snacks and water to people who are getting vaccinated and the healthcare workers who are doing their life-saving jobs. According to Fleras, getting vaccinated can take as long as five hours. With food in the belly, at least, the wait can be less stressful.
Rise has also joined Swab Cab, the program by the Office of the Vice President that encourages people to get tested by providing them with food. “People are scared of being tested because of the fear that they will have to be isolated and not be able to provide for their families,” explains Fleras. With Swab Cab, those who test positive for COVID-19 are also given additional food so that they don't have to worry about their loved ones when they go into isolation.
Fleras, who has been on the frontlines of the pandemic, notes how people are afraid in these worrying times. “Many are gripped by fear and this fear can sometimes paralyze them into inaction. It is important that people feel that they have the power to stop the pandemic by getting tested and vaccinated.” Rise sees the need to address the complications, including fear and loneliness, brought about by the pandemic directly, and so it now offers food to people affected by COVID-19. By feeding the body, it also strengthens the soul.