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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.”

April 22, 2015

Dine Out and Win


Have you made reservations for Dining Out for Life on Thursday? It couldn't be any easier for you to make an impact in the lives of children and adults who are nutritionally at-risk due to critical illness.

As a thank you, you could WIN BIG! On Thursday, four lucky diners will be randomly selected to win one of these amazing prizes. 

 Unleash your inner foodie and get cooking with a Whole Foods Market Foodie™ specialty basket and $500 gift card.
 Sip on a signed bottle of Rock Creek White Whiskey & District Made Vodka from One Eight Distilling.
 Watch the Nationals take on the Rays, with 4 tickets, 5 rows behind first base, and parking.
  Fly away with a $500 American Airlines gift card.

And, by filling out an envelope that evening, you could win a $1,000 American Airlines gift card. 

Don't wait! Find a restaurant and make a reservation through OpenTable so you can participate in our "Dine Out and Win" prize giveaway!

April 21, 2015

Queen Force One Schedule for Dining Out for Life

Drum roll please....the Queen Force One Dining Out For Life schedule is complete. #DineOutDC. Make your reservations today for 4/23 at!

6:30 PM
Dino’s Grotto (1914 9th Street Northwest) 
Beau Thai – Shaw (1550 7th Street Northwest) 

7:15 PM
Perry’s Restaurant (1811 Columbia Rd NW) 
Mintwood Place (1813 Columbia Rd NW) 

8:00 PM
Duplex Diner (2004 18th St NW) 
L’Enfant CafĂ© (2000 18th St NW) 

8:45 PM
La Tomate (1701 Connecticut Ave NW) 
Station Kitchen and Cocktails (2015 Massachusetts Ave NW) 

9:15 PM
Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (1609 17th St NW) 
Hank’s Oyster Bar DC (1624 Q St NW) 

9:45 PM
Commissary (1443 P St NW) 
Logan Tavern (1423 P St NW) 

10:15 PM
Ristorante Posto (1515 14th St NW) 
Pearl Dive Oyster Bar (1612 14th St NW)

April 8, 2015

Gifts from the Heart: Spirit of Giving Inspires Supporters Linda and David Purcell

“I’ll never forget them. I still drive by their houses and say, ‘There is Leroy’s house and that is Mila’s.’ You don’t forget people like that.”

This memory of delivering meals is part of what drives volunteers and donors, Linda and David Purcell.

Linda and David were first introduced to Food & Friends in 1996 when they were at brunch with some friends and saw hundreds of bikes passing. They later learned the bikers were riding as part of the first DC to Philly AIDSRide. Inspired by their commitment, for the next three years Linda volunteered for the AIDSRide while David rode in two of them.

Like so many others, Linda and David have been personally affected by HIV and AIDS. They had a friend who passed away from AIDS and they currently know people who are battling the disease. Their involvement with Food & Friends stems from their appreciation for the services we provide and their understanding of how necessary they are.

“Cancer and AIDS are very powerful diseases. Just getting something to eat is important. People really need this service and it really makes a difference in their lives.”

After volunteering with the AIDSRides, Linda felt compelled to continue her involvement with Food & Friends. She started delivering meals and, in 2006, both Linda and David started volunteering every Thursday in the kitchen. They’ve been regulars ever since.

The satisfaction of knowing she is helping someone is what makes the volunteering so worth it for Linda. Additionally, she feels it is a challenging yet life-enriching experience.

“After I volunteer, I’m tired as heck, but you feel like you’ve had fun, that you were appreciated and you’re surrounded by people who enjoy what they are doing,” says Linda. “You feel inspired. You always know what you are doing it for."

David and Linda Purcell have been supporting Food & Friends since 1996.
Linda and David recognize the link between food, nutrition and health. In fact, their interest to support grew as their involvement grew, and now we are proud to call them volunteers and donors.

Linda says she likes supporting Food & Friends because she knows we are a good steward of their funds and that her contribution will be put to good use.

“You want the money to go to the right place. We don’t give to any organization that does not have at least a three star rating with Charity Navigator,” says Linda. “We’ve been impressed with Food & Friends since we first got involved. It’s a great place to donate because it’s going to go far and it’s just managed so well.”

Linda points out that illness will always exist and so will the need for the unique services Food & Friends provides. To ensure Food & Friends will be a vital community resource in the future, they joined our Legacy Society and have included Food & Friends in their will.

“Financial support will always be needed. Food & Friends is an organization that keeps getting better and better. Food & Friends is a timeless and sustainable organization to support. It’s great to be part of that.”

Linda and David’s passion, commitment and friendship exemplify the spirit of Food & Friends. We cannot thank them enough for the impact they've made on thousands of our neighbors facing critical illnesses.

What motivates you? What can you do to make a difference? Donate to Food & Friends.

Dine Out on April 23rd: Take a Stand by Sitting Down and Enjoying a Meal
No one is immune from illness and no one is immune from hunger. Nowhere is that more evident than in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Nobody should have to choose between buying food and medication. You can help make this decision easier for hundreds of people in our local community.

Simply by dining out on April 23rd, you can support children and adults fighting critical illnesses by raising funds for our home-delivered nutrition services. More than 90 restaurants are participating – each donating 25-100% of your bill to Food & Friends.

Don’t wait until April 23rd! Here are 3 ways you can get ready!

MAKE A RESERVATION. Restaurants are filling up quickly so call to reserve your seat! OpenTable makes it easy for you to book at a number of participating restaurants.

JOIN OUR THUNDERCLAP! Sign up and a message inviting people to dine out will automatically post on your social media accounts on April 22nd. 

DONATE. Make a gift to support our work. Everyone who donates will be entered to win a $1,000 US Airways Gift Card!

Dining Out for Life® is an easy way to make a difference. All you have to do is exactly what you do many other nights of the week – go out to a restaurant with friends and family. The cost isn’t any higher and it gives you an excuse to order that extra piece of dessert.

March 26, 2015

Thank You Bank of America!

Bank of America Charitable Foundation has awarded $25,000 to Food & Friends to address the urgent hunger and nutritional needs of those in the community living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. The grant will support our Freshly-Prepared Meals and Groceries-to-Go Programs that home-deliver specialized and nutritious meals to the critically ill in the DC Metro Region. Bank of America’s contribution provided over 3,500 meals to our clients today, March 26th. Additionally, Bank of American employees volunteered on this day to help prepare and package the meals.

As a funder with a vision to support the local community, the impact of funding from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation to support those living with critical illnesses cannot be overstated. More than 80 percent of Food & Friends’ clients live at or below the poverty line; for them, the meals Food & Friends provides not only offer vital nutrition but also financial relief from the many costly burdens of living with serious illness.

“Food & Friends works tirelessly to help alleviate hunger for those who need it most throughout our community,” said Jeff Wood, Greater Washington market president, Bank of America. “With health and nutrition intricately linked, this support will enable Food & Friends to provide vital access to quality food for those living with HIV/AIDs, and we hope it will be one step further on the road to health.”

“For people living with critical illnesses, our high-quality, specialized and home-delivered meals are a low-cost intervention that assures better health outcomes, independence and an improved quality of life for those we serve,” says Food & Friends Executive Director Craig Shniderman. “It is because of the efforts of Bank of America’s Charitable Foundation that we are able to make such a difference in the lives of so many local residents in need of proper nutrition.”

March 11, 2015

Alpha Kappa Alpha - Xi Omega Chapter's Timeless Service to Food & Friends

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1998, seven members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Xi Omega Chapter, joined Food & Friends’ volunteer corps. For 17 years, this chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. has remained committed to the Food & Friends’ volunteer program and increased its volunteer numbers and hours.

Notably, in January 2015, Xi Omega logged its 1,200th volunteer hour at Food & Friends. This milestone achievement establishes the sorority as a great example for any civic organization committed to making a difference in the local community. 

“The partnership started 17 years ago as an extension of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s international focus on strengthening the family and health promotion,” says Dr. Lavdena Orr, the president of Xi Omega Chapter and sorority member for over 25 years. “We work to help those citizens in our community who are disadvantaged because of their health. Every year, more and more [Xi Omega] volunteers want to help.”

Alpha Kappa Alpha is the nation’s oldest Greek-letter sorority founded by college-educated, African-American women. Xi Omega, which was chartered in 1923, is the oldest Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc -graduate chapter in Washington, DC. Xi Omega volunteers at Food & Friends every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in support of “a day on and not a day off” initiative.

“Our main drive for giving back every year is to make sure we are helping our community,” says Dr. Orr. “Food & Friends has the resources to help people with health challenges and we have the hands.”

Vivian Smith, an Alpha Kappa Alpha member for over 50 years and former president of Xi Omega, was part of the first group of women who volunteered in 1998. The feeling she gets when serving the community is what keeps her coming back. “Volunteering is a good feeling,” says Vivian. “For me, it’s a feeling of knowing that someone out there is going to benefit from something I’ve been able to do.”

Xi Omega’s community service not only results in the preparation and delivery of nutritious meals, but a better understanding of how the community can support the critically ill.

“We have seen positive changes in Food & Friends over the years,” says Cora Dixon, member of the sorority for over 40 years and Food & Friends volunteer since 1998. “Our experience there has caused other [Alpha Kappa Alpha] members to want to come. It seems like they have developed an appetite to come and make a difference in the lives of those who are seriously ill.”

For April Gaines-Jernigan, an AKA member for 33 years, volunteering fulfills a vow she made when she first joined the organization. “When I leave, I feel like I have contributed to the community and that we have made an impact and a statement that we are fulfilling our [sorority] pledge of serving all mankind. I enjoy it and wish that we could come more often!”

Thank you Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Xi Omega Chapter for being such a great partner. Your commitment to Food & Friends’ mission is a shining example of a partnership that results in positive outcomes for the community.

March 9, 2015

How We Plan Our Specialized Menu

We've all been there. You're hosting a dinner party for your friends and each of them has different food preferences and possibly even food allergies or intolerances. Now, imagine developing a 6-week menu for hundreds of people. To even the most experienced chef, this scenario is quite the challenge.

Planning our 6-week menu of specialized nutritious meals is a complex, multifaceted task for our team of chefs and registered dietitians. The primary goal of this process is to develop meals that appeal to our clients while supporting their overall health and immune function. Check out our infographic below which explains how our team of chefs and dietitians develop meals that are relevant and vital to those we serve.

February 19, 2015

Contribute with Confidence

We know there are many organizations competing for your charitable dollar. We have a deep respect for our donors. It is important to us that your contributions are put to good use. Thank you for your trust and for joining us in our work meeting the needs of those in our community who are counting on us as they battle serious illnesses. Because of you, our neighbors in need are able to receive food and nutrition education, at no cost to them, as they battle HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. We are sincerely grateful. 

We are committed to the highest level of service to our clients and the highest standard of stewardship of the contributions of our staff, volunteers and donors. As reported in Food & Friends’ most recent Form 990, 81.1% of donated funds are used for direct client costs. This far exceeds the 65% minimum program expenses suggested by the Better Business Bureau and demonstrates to you that we take our fiduciary and governance responsibilities very seriously. Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchgroup, gives us a 97% score in Accountability & Transparency.

IRS Form 990 Facts
  • Food & Friends' annual budget for 2015 is more than $9 million;
  • 81.1% of budget supports program expenses;
  • 3.5% of budget supports administrative expenses;
  • 15.4% of budget supports fundraising and development expenses;

Breakdown of Food & Friends Revenue Streams (based on 2013 Audit):
  • Public Funding: 32.4%
  • Individuals: 31.2%
  • Special Events: 15.6%
  • Corporations and Foundations: 12.9%
  • Capital Campaign: 4.9%
  • Other: 3%

We hire the best talent and work hard to retain staff:
  • 52 staff members;
  • We leverage the support of more than 10,000 volunteers each year to stretch every dollar we raise;
  • We take professional development seriously and have an ambitious staff training program. Food & Friends’ staff attend dozens of local trainings and webinars each year to keep their professional skills sharp and up-to-date. Food & Friends also pays the dues for several staff to join relevant professional associations;
  • Our Executive Director, Craig Shniderman, has led Food & Friends for over 20 years;
  • Results of our investment in staff retention are tangible:
    • 49% of staff have worked at Food & Friends at least 5 years;
    • 23% of staff have worked for Food & Friends for at least 10 years;
    • 11% of staff have more than 15 years tenure;

You, our donors, are a critical part of our mission. It’s your dollars that keep us going and enable us to serve a need in the community. So you have the right to know how your gift is used. You can learn more about the impact of your gift through our monthly enewsletter, ChopTalk publication, tax returns, audited statements and annual report. We believe in transparency and accountability, which is why all these reports are provided for your directly on our website. 

If you have any questions about the impact of our services and how your money is put to good use, please contact our Director of Development, Pat Cornell, at or (202) 269-6970.