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July 30, 2015

URGENT: Group Volunteers Needed in August & September

To fulfill our mission, we rely on more than 10,000 volunteers each year. We are overwhelmed with support in the fall, spring and during the holidays.

But, in August and September, many of our regular volunteers and corporate groups are on vacation, summer youth groups are going back to school and our school groups are just getting settled into the year.

Nearly 50% of those who volunteer at Food & Friends come with a group. So, you can imagine that during this time, we are struggling to fill our needs in the kitchen and on the road. 


Group volunteers work together to get meals out the door, making it an enjoyable and terrific team-building activity for your company, civic or religious organization, or social group.

Here is a sample of the days and times we need help just in August.

Thursday, August 6th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 10 People
Friday, August 7th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 8 People
Monday, August 10th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 15 People
Wednesday, August 12th | 6:00-8:00pm | Up to 6 People
Friday, August 14th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 People
Monday, August 17th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 10 People
Monday, August 24th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 People
Monday, August 24th | 6:00-8:00pm | Up to 6 People

Please sign up today if your group is interested in getting involved this August and September.

Questions? Contact Beth Stewart. We can’t wait to see you!

July 29, 2015

"The deliveries were a lifeline"

Cooking for the clients of Food & Friends is more than a job for me – it’s a joy. I have the chance to get to know some of the neighbors we serve – men and women living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses. I’d like to share one of their stories with you. Sasha. She’s a 29 year-old mom living with HIV. When she started receiving services, she was also pregnant.

Here’s a letter Sasha sent to us:

I want you all to know how much this service has meant to me and my family. While I was pregnant, it was very difficult for me to go grocery shopping, especially considering that I do not drive. 

The food that was provided helped me to eat well and feed my children. Due to financial difficulties which have been exacerbated by the cost of baby formula, diapers, and other baby necessities, the food deliveries were a needed lifeline.

We are so thankful for all that you have done for us and we know that you will continue to help others just as you have helped us. It is still a difficult time for us but we hope that someday we can offer our support in return.

Thank you all, and be blessed, Sasha

With gratitude,
Mark Locraft
Executive Chef

July 7, 2015

Tips to Staying Hydrated this Summer

As the weather continues to warm up and the sun shines brighter, drinking enough water is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle this summer.

Did you know over half of our body weight is made up of water?

Water is needed to control our body’s temperature, to protect our tissues, joints, and muscles, and to help with blood flow throughout the body. Drinking water contributes to good heart health and overall hydration. Each day, our body loses water through normal body excretions and replenishing this supply of water is critical.

Every person’s body is different so everyone requires different amounts of water to stay hydrated. On average, it is recommended to drink about 6 to 8 eight ounce cups of water per day.

When our bodies do not have enough water, this can be detrimental to our health. Key signs of dehydration include noticeable or extreme thirst, muscle cramps, weakness, decreased performance, nausea, headache, fatigue, dizziness and trouble focusing. One important indicator of dehydration is the color of your urine. A dark yellow or orange color may indicate poor hydration. Ideally, if your urine is colorless or light yellow, you are drinking enough water. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends monitoring your urine as a better indicator of your hydration levels than your thirst.

Keeping yourself hydrated can be easy with these simple tips!

Carry a Water Bottle: Consider purchasing a reusable water bottle that you can refill from a water fountain or even your kitchen sink.

Keep Track: If you have trouble remembering to drink water, try drinking at specific times of the day. Having an 8-ounce cup of water at each meal can be a great way to stay hydrated.

Add Some Flavor: If you do not enjoy the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon, lime, or even cucumber to your drink to add some natural flavor with minimal calories. Drinking water is more beneficial than sugar-sweetened beverages or sports drinks because they often have extra calories and artificial sugars.

Remember each person’s body is different and speak to your doctor or dietitian for how much water you should be consuming. Certain medical conditions include diabetes, heart disease, and even certain medications can also require one to drink even more water than recommended. Enjoy the warm weather as summer approaches, but remember to hydrate yourself throughout the day with these simple tips!


From Executive Chef Mark Locraft: Support our Summer Food Fund

I’m usually found preparing nutritious food in Food & Friends’ kitchen. So if this blog post isn’t quite as appealing as our tangy chicken vegetable soup, well . . . I apologize but I had to take a moment to post because I really need your help.

As the Executive Chef at Food & Friends, I am responsible for the team of chefs, dietitians, and volunteers that plan, prepare and cook the nourishing meals we serve to our neighbors in need — breakfast, lunch and dinner, 52 weeks a year for 2,700 clients living with HIV/AIDS, cancer or other life-challenging illness.

As you can imagine, without unlimited resources, I have to plan meals carefully so I always stay within our budget. This isn’t an easy task. If you’ve shopped for groceries lately, you know how expensive they can be. And during the hottest summer months, I have an additional challenge because our level of financial support and food donations decline. But our clients depend on us regardless of the season. Their effort to stay healthy doesn’t take a vacation.{W15ASFFF}

On behalf of the clients I need to feed this summer, I’m asking you to support our Summer Food Fund campaign and help ensure that I have the necessary financial resources to purchase the thousands of pounds of food for meals to be delivered to our clients over the next few months. Today we are only part of the way toward raising our Summer Food Fund goal of $75,000 to help sustain us throughout the tough, hot summer months. This is where you can help!

Your generous, tax-deductible gift will help us purchase, prepare and deliver the healthy meals and nutritional guidance that our clients rely on day-to-day during a very emotional and financially difficult time in their life. Perhaps even more importantly, each meal will be delivered along with a warm smile and words of encouragement from a friendly face. With your help, these meals will not only be healthy, but will also be satisfying. Being able to serve so many people who need my help is one of the reasons that I enjoy my job so much.

While financial support typically declines during the hottest months of the year, demand for Food & Friends’ services continues to increase. Could you tell someone who is hungry and is suffering from a serious illness that you can’t help them? I can’t. As much as I’m able to economize on food costs and utilize the time and energy of our dedicated volunteers, I can only stretch our food budget so far. Food & Friends needs your help to ensure we don’t have to face our growing demands without adequate financial resources.

Help us reach our Summer Food Fund goal of $75,000, you can make sure we will continue to be there for the men, women and children that depend on our services. With continued advancements in treatments for diseases like HIV/AIDS and cancer, nutritious meals have become an even more important weapon in the fight for better health.

I am honored to be working with YOU to help deliver important nutrition to those in our community living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. Your caring support delivers the best and safest meals that we can provide and our clients so desperately need.

And thank you for being there when it counts the most.


Mark Locraft
Executive Chef

June 17, 2015

Food & Friends Raises Close to $1.1 Million at the 25th Anniversary Chef’s Best

On Monday, June 15th, 50 of the area’s best chefs served tastings of their signature plates in the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis to raise money for Food & Friends. The chefs were participating in our 25th Anniversary Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction Presented by Friendship Hospital
 for Animals. We proudly honored the Marriott family, Marriott International and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation during the event.

Chef’s Best was in a new home this year, the stunning Marquis Ballroom at the brand new Marriott Marquis. 

During the VIP Reception, Board President Mike Bento recognized partners that have supported Food & Friends for over a decade. Peter Glassman, Director of Friendship Hospital for Animals and Debbie Marriott Harrison, Global Officer, Marriott Culture and Business Councils for Marriott International were recognized for their numerous contributions over the years. Also honored was David Hagedorn who started Chef’s Best 25 years ago and helped to build it into one of the best nights of philanthropy in Washington, DC. 

Supporters gave in various ways including a Live Auction with once-in-a-lifetime experiences and trips. Highlights included a trip to Cuba which sold to three different bidders for $10,500 each, a cooking class and lunch with Chef Patrick O’Connell at the Inn at Little Washington which sold for $11,000 and a home-made dinner for 8 by Food & Friends’ Executive Chef which sold for $5,700. An appeal was made to the audience to support Food & Friends’ clients – current and new – facing diabetes. Guests at Chef’s Best gave generously and more than $76,000 was collected.

Celebrity Chef Co-Chair, Jeff Black of Black Restaurant Group, took the stage to thank attendees and make a special announcement. He told a story of visiting Food & Friends’ facility and being so taken with the operation that he asked a simple question; “What would it take for me to pay for the food in this place for one day?” He got the answer and at last night’s event, Jeff Black, with his family and their foundation, donated $35,000 to fund one full day of meals for Food & Friends’ clients.

All proceeds from Chef’s Best will ensure the delivery of specialized meals and personalized nutrition counseling to Food & Friends’ clients living with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses. This year, supporters will help provide more than 1 million meals to more than 2,700 individuals in Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland. Food & Friends depends on the support of corporations, foundations and individuals and is grateful for the sponsors who have contributed to Chef’s Best.

June 4, 2015

Extraordinary Partnership Reaps Extraordinary Results

Since 2001, Food & Friends has partnered with The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and Marriott International to improve the lives of people living with life-challenging illnesses in the Washington, DC metro area.

Since 2001, Marriott employees have served thousands
of hours in our kitchen.
Grants totaling more than $1,000,000 from the Marriott Foundation have supported our capital campaign and cancer services program, and Marriott properties have donated hotel stays for our Chef’s Best auction raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support those we serve. Marriott has not just provided financial support, their commitment to volunteerism is remarkable and we have been honored to have associates spend thousands of hours in our kitchen as part of their annual Spirit to Serve Our Communities day, as well as regularly throughout the year.

Debbie Marriott Harrison, Global Officer, Marriott Culture and Business Councils, Marriott International has this to say about the unique relationship between Food & Friends and Marriott:

We are proud to honor the Marriott Family, Marriott
International, Inc. and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott
Foundation at this year's Chef's Best.
“Our longstanding partnership with Food & Friends illustrates The Marriott Foundation’s desire to support organizations that help lift up the most vulnerable. Investing in the communities where Marriott International does business makes our Spirit to Serve culture more vibrant and our society stronger. Quality service is at the core of how we do business and we see this same value in Food & Friends’ long track record of providing high quality, nutritious and specialized meals to people facing life-challenging illnesses. We are delighted to support this remarkable organization.”

Food & Friends’ partnership with Marriott is rooted in similar values and the belief that neighbors should help their neighbors. Over the past 13 years, our partnership has proven the extraordinary impact that is made possible through joined effort. We are looking forward to paying them special tribute during Chef’s Best this year.

June 3, 2015

It’s Our 25th Anniversary of Chef’s Best!

In a community filled with food happenings running the gamut from festivals to galas, events tend to come and go. What is successful one year, may be gone the next. But, one celebration you can mark down every year as a sure thing is Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction.

Chef's Best has grown tremendously in the past 25 years.
More than 1,300 guests are expected to attend this year.
For a quarter century, Chef’s Best has drawn attendees from around the country to a one-evening celebration of local cuisine, signature cocktails, delicious desserts and charity.

This year’s event is presented by Friendship Hospital for Animals and will honor the Marriott family, Marriott International and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

More than 1,300 guests are expected to attend on June 15th at the Marriott Marquis. David Hagedorn, recipient of this year’s Visionary Leader Award and founder of Chef’s Best, will be one of them.

David Hagedorn is a chef, restaurateur, food writer, Washington Post food columnist and event extraordinaire. He was inspired to create Chef’s Best 25 years ago after meeting the founder and past executive director of Food & Friends, Carla Gorell.

“At that time, the mission was to feed homebound people with HIV and AIDS. That was a huge problem in the nineties. There was a tremendous need there,” says David. “People didn’t know yet that the need was there and there was an organization like Food & Friends meeting that need.”

When he first visited Food & Friends, which was housed in the basement of a church, he was shocked at the condition of the facilities.

This year, 60 of the region's most talented chefs will donate
their time to provide tastings to support Food & Friends.
“The basement was a very small place and they were starting to outgrow the space. The facilities and conditions were really pitiful,” says David. “It was clear that they couldn’t stay in that space for too long. They needed to grow and they needed money.”

What David felt he could bring to the equation was awareness and ultimately more funding. So he resolved to put on a benefit at West End CafĂ© in the One Washington Circle Hotel – the first ever Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction.

David recruited his close chef friends to join him. Roberto Donna, Patrick O’Connell, Jean-Louis Palladin, Francesco Ricchi, Greggory Hill and Melissa Balinger were among the twelve chefs who participated.

The first event attracted more than 200 people and raised $45,000. With such success, it was clear that this needed to be an annual gathering.

“The place was packed and the food was great. It was just magical.”

David and Stephen T. Brown hosted the second Chef’s Best at One Washington Circle Hotel which raised nearly $90,000. The third event was hosted at Phillips Flagship.

Over the next 21 years, Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction would grow to become one of the premiere food events in the Washington DC Region and would raise millions in critical funds to support Food & Friends’ mission.

“I can’t help but feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. I wish the need wouldn’t be so great.”

Chef’s Best is made possible by the generosity of the hundreds of chefs who have donated their time and resources – including David Hagedorn and the first twelve Chef’s Best chefs who were true pioneers for Food & Friends’ mission of caring for those with life-challenging illnesses.

“It supports what I already knew about the chef community in Washington. We have the greatest chef community,” says David. “There isn’t a chef community that is as supportive, selfless and generous. The proof is in the pudding. They are still there after all these years.”

As we celebrate 25 years of Chef’s Best Dinner & Auction, please show your support by buying tickets and raffle tickets, volunteering or sponsoring the event.

May 26, 2015

Chef's Best Celebrates 25 Years on June 15th!

On Monday, June 15th, the region's best chefs will donate their time and talents to delight guests during the 25th Anniversary Chef's Best Dinner & Auction presented by Friendship Hospital for Animals, honoring the Marriott family, Marriott International and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. 

Your attendance will help provide nutritious, home-delivered meals to children and adults throughout our region battling HIV/AIDS, cancer and other debilitating illnesses. As a guest you'll enjoy tantalizing food, drinks and auction items. 

Mini steak sandwiches, seared sea scallop with spring pea sushi rice, sesame and sweet corn-togarashi puree, and ginger lamb and beer meatballs with tamarind sauce...these are just a few of the delectable dishes you'll devour at Chef's Best.

Don't miss this exceptional evening of generosity! 

Buy your sponsorship or tickets today!

May 4, 2015

Fad Diets: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

We have all seen advertisements for the latest and greatest diet. They promise magic results, such as “Lose 15 pounds in 1 week!” or “Never feel tired again!” These new, popular diets are termed “fad diets.” Their health claims are appealing because they offer immediate results and often show a celebrity who lost weight by following one.

But, are fad diets too good to be true? Most likely, yes.

These diets rarely have staying power. Some people have short-term success, but the diet is usually too restrictive to maintain positive and consistent results. Even though these diets aren’t quick, miracle solutions, some of the characteristics of these diets may be beneficial. Here’s a closer look at some fad diets:

This diet centers around only eating foods that can be hunted or gathered; theoretically what cavemen ate. On this diet, you can eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, vegetables, and fruit. You cannot have grains, dairy, legumes (beans and peas), sugar, or salt. 

  • PRO: You will likely eat more vegetables and fruit! Vegetables and fruit provide important nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber, which you need to maintain your health. You may also reduce your sodium intake by eating less processed foods. Eating less sodium may help keep your blood pressure in the recommended range.
  • CON: By excluding whole grains and dairy, you are missing out on important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin D. You may also over consume fat, especially if you do not choose lean meats. Eating an excess amount of saturated fats may increase your cholesterol and predispose you to heart disease. Lastly, weight loss will follow any diet if the amount of calories you eat is less than the amount of calories you burn exercising or are used to keep your organs functioning.

There are many variations of a “detox diet.” Typically you fast or limit the amount you eat at the beginning. Then, you avoid certain food groups, such as grains. Throughout, detox dieters may drink specific juices or smoothies as meal replacements.

  • PRO: Many detox diets encourage smoothies of fresh fruits and vegetables, which everyone should eat more of in their diet. Additionally, by fasting or eating very little, you may identify certain foods that trigger symptoms for you like constipation or diarrhea. Registered Dietitians can help you identify these trigger foods in safer and healthier ways.
  • CON: You will lose weight, but it is because many of these detox diets are dangerously low in calories and protein. You may feel tired and dizzy and experience headaches. Importantly, the premise of many of these diets is flawed. They propose that toxins are widespread in our food supply, and you need periods of “detoxing.” In reality, if a food were full of dangerous chemicals, the United States Department of Agriculture would not allow it on the shelves. Also, you do not need a special diet to “detox.” Your body naturally removes toxins. Your liver breaks down harmful chemicals, and your kidneys get rid of them in your urine.

If you want to follow a healthy diet, you may see these fad diets and be confused or discourage by all the false information portrayed. The Paleo Diet and Detox Diets are just 2 of the many fad diets out there, and there is always a new one around the corner. Luckily, nutrition professionals are looking out for you. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has issued a simple guide to help you spot fad diets that cannot be trusted. They recommend that you ignore a diet if it has any of these characteristics:
  1. Encourages rapid weight loss
  2. Allows unlimited amounts of a certain food
  3. Removes an entire food group
  4. Makes you follow a complicated eating schedule
  5. Says that you do not need to exercise
If you are looking to make your diet healthier, try to make ½ of your plate fruits and vegetables, choose lean proteins like lean meats and legumes, eat low-fat dairy items, substitute whole grain products for refined grains when you can, and use healthy fats like plant oils instead of saturated fats like butter. In your diet, incorporate cultural dishes that you like and flavors that you cannot live without. Keep in mind that a diet you can sustain will help you avoid “yo-yo” weight changes, which occur when you lose weight quickly only to gain it back later. The healthiest and most realistic way to lose weight is gradually, ½ to 1 pound per week.

For even more tips on how to create a personalized healthy diet, schedule a meeting with a local dietitian. Happy eating!

Rachel Kelley, MS
NIH Dietetic Intern

Anna Kinard, RD
Community Dietitian

With Us Since the Beginning: Meet Ed Turner

Ed Turner has been acting on his passion for volunteering since a young age.

“As many people do, I grew up giving of myself. It was important,” says Ed. “Service was instilled by society, family and faith or spirituality. I was always doing something.”

Volunteer Ed Turner first volunteered with Food & Friends
more than 28 years ago.

For Ed, volunteerism became even more personal when he began delivering meals to two of his friends facing AIDS more than 28 years ago, before Food & Friends was founded.

“Food & Friends hadn’t really started yet. I was dispatched to pick up meals for my friends from the basement of the church,” says Ed. “They needed help because they didn’t have the energy or time to cook.”

Since then, Ed volunteered periodically until five years ago when he committed to delivering meals on a regular basis.

“Delivering meals takes me out of my comfort zone and challenges me. And I am able to have direct interaction with clients. I knew it was the right fit.”

Ed learned that anything can happen when you dedicate your time and heart to helping others – and he passes this sense of care to each of the clients he visits.

“For some clients, it may be the only interaction they have. If all I have to do is say ‘It’s good to see you today’ and they know I mean that, I’ve done what I need to do,” says Ed. “I’ve gotten them through another day. Maybe they’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Ed believes that anyone has the ability to volunteer and that Food & Friends has opportunities for everyone. In addition to delivering meals, Ed serves as a restaurant host for our annual Dining Out for Life fundraiser. During the event, Ed mingles with diners while raising critical funds for Food & Friends’ mission.

“If you are at all lucky, which many of us are, you can do something to help. We all have a talent and we all have time.”

Ed views volunteering as an enriching and normal part of life. And, despite his busy schedule, he claims that balancing his life with service has not been as difficult as people may think.

“You all make it easy to volunteer. All you need is 45 minutes and a smile. It’s really that simple.”

Delivering meals to his good friends facing AIDS might be what introduced Ed to Food & Friends, but it’s the feeling he gets when he volunteers that keeps him coming back. 

After I volunteer, I leave with perspective. I’m back with Food & Friends and it’s where I’m supposed to be.”