Coronavirus: Food donations no longer accepted by Alberta health-care workers

Some Albertans have been showing their appreciation for health-care workers by dropping off donations of food. But those donations won’t be accepted anymore, Alberta Health Services said.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, AHS explained “the risk is just too great right now” and “no AHS staff member may accept or serve any external, non-AHS sourced food, to patients or staff.”

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Of those, 33 are believed to be community transmissions.

“During this global pandemic, coming together to help and support one another is of upmost importance,” AHS wrote on Twitter.

“We greatly appreciate the hundreds of offers from Albertans to lend a hand to our health-care staff and the patients in our care, including the donation or supply of food.

“Although we greatly appreciate this act of kindness, we must protect the health and well-being of our staff, volunteers and patients and no AHS staff member may accept or serve any external, non-AHS sourced food, to patients or staff.”

“This is to ensure the food we serve meets AHS standards and will help patients heal,” AHS spokesperson Erin Lawrence added in an email to Global News.

“AHS Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) Patient Food Services and Retail Food Services operations must not handle or serve food from unapproved sources,” she explained.

“We love that you want to give our staff donuts and goodies. We agree — they deserve it! But, the risk is just too great right now. Following these guidelines will help to ensure we limit the spread of COVID-19,” AHS said.

Lawrence instead directed those who want to offer support to the Alberta Emergency Management Agency website. On the offers page, you can detail what kind of support you’d like to give: equipment, supplies, or food and water.

A spokesperson clarified Thursday that people are more than welcome to give health-care workers gift cards to restaurants or for food-delivery services.

“Staff are welcome to have food delivered for personal consumption,” Sabrina Atwal said in a statement to Global News.

“Our guidelines pertain to food donated for entire teams or large groups of staff. Trying to adhere to safe food practices in group settings can be very difficult, that is why we made the tough decision to restrict unsolicited donations from external sources. If AHS staff want to bring in outside food to share with other AHS staff, and not with patients, they must ensure that the external provider meets AHS health and safety standards and they must ensure they practice social distancing.”

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Several local businesses had also been dropping off food — like pizzas — for front-line workers to say thank you.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, AHS again said how grateful its staff are for that show of support.

“We are extremely grateful and thankful for companies and individuals who are offering food to our front-line staff. It’s very heartening to know that Albertans have our backs, just as we have theirs.

“But, we have to ensure we are doing all we can to protect both our staff, and our patients. So, we are having to say no to food donations.
We don’t want our staff gathering in groups to eat, just as we don’t advise members of the public to do that.

“We have touched base with a number of food banks in our communities, and they would readily accept any donations of non-perishable food. And, our staff can certainly accept gift cards for restaurants or food delivery services.”

Atwal had two ideas for Albertans wanting to show kindness during this time: pass it on to local food banks and thank health-care workers for their efforts through thanksforcaring.ca.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said even at home, families can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by not sharing bowls of snacks and food, cups, glasses and utensils.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw noted that a number of people who contracted COVID-19 at an Edmonton curling bonspiel earlier this month are believed to have caught the illness at a buffet related to the event.

Hinshaw told reporters that she spoke with a number of the province’s faith-based leaders about major religious events like Easter and Ramadan approaching. She said she emphasized that now is not the time for people to take part in family reunions, travel or to host large family dinners.

The government also announced Wednesday it amended the Procedures Regulation, under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act, to empower law enforcement officers like community peace officers and police officers to issue tickets to enforce public health orders.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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