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August 17, 2015

Welcome Deborah Peeples: New Chief Development Officer

We are thrilled to announce that Deborah Peeples will join the Food & Friends staff on September 1st as our new Chief Development Officer. Deborah will be an important leader of our development team and instrumental in helping to build greater capacity to meet the growing demand for Food & Friends in our community.

Deborah is a results-oriented, creative fundraiser with a proven record helping nonprofit organizations transform their fundraising programs and increase revenue. Deborah has helped national, regional and local nonprofit organizations with capital campaigns, development assessments, annual fund planning, and Board development. In 2008, Deborah was selected as the Outstanding Fund Raising Professional of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Metro DC chapter.

Deborah is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE). She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology/English at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and her Masters of Arts in Student Personnel Services also at the University of Florida. Deborah was the Vice President, Philanthropy at the Humane Society of the United States, the Executive Director of Iona, a Washington, D.C. non-profit agency serving seniors; President of the Capital Hospice Foundation in Falls Church, and Director of Major and Planned Giving at WETA TV/FM. Additionally, Deborah has experience as an independent fundraising consultant. Deborah is active nationally in advancing the field of development through conference leadership and other professional engagements.

August 3, 2015

Kenni Delivers: Driving 700 Miles a Week to Serve Our Neighbors in Need

For many, the commute is the worst part of any day. Sitting in traffic for hours on a drive that should only take 30 minutes, all while hoping a good song comes on the radio. Now, imagine spending your entire day in the car, driving all around the city. To some this is a nightmare, but at Food & Friends it’s what our delivery drivers do, Monday thru Saturday, 52 weeks a year.

Kenni Wall, our Delivery Coordinator, has done this for almost 10 years and is just as passionate about his work today as he was on his first day. In fact, Kenni was just honored by the Delivery Department with the Safety, Efficiency & Teamwork Award (SET).

This award is given twice a year to a member of the delivery staff who exemplifies a commitment to safety on the road, works effectively and efficiently, and is an outstanding member of the Food & Friends team. Kenni repeatedly goes above and beyond in his work by volunteering to help with fundraising events after a long day on the road, obeying traffic laws, and picking up extra delivery stops to ensure new clients start receiving meals right away.

Five days a week, Kenni drives more than 700 miles throughout DC, MD, and VA delivering meals to the most vulnerable members of our community. He brings meals to people who are going through chemotherapy and are too weak to prepare meals for themselves and their loved ones, and to people who are experiencing side effects from their HIV medications. It is not an easy task spending this much time alone on the road and witnessing, first-hand, the struggles that our clients endure. But for Kenni, it’s the clients that keep him motivated.

“When you know someone [needs the food], appreciates it, and is happy to see you, that is what keeps me motivated,” said Kenni.

Kenni has seen a lot and has positively impacted the lives of many in our community. A memory that stands out to him is from this last winter. It was a harsh, cold winter and our clients were hit harder than many in the community. One day, along with the meals, Kenni was delivering donated poinsettias.

“I remember delivering to a client who lives in Calvert County, Maryland. When I arrived with the flowers she started crying – she loves having fresh flowers in her home and appreciated the gesture,” says Kenni.

Our clients connect with our drivers as much as our drivers connect with the clients. We receive calls from clients everyday just to say how much they love our delivery drivers. What makes our drivers so special? Compassion.

“You need compassion to look someone in the eye, know they are hurting, and ask ‘how are you feeling?’ and to spare a few minutes of your time to speak with them. That takes compassion and our delivery drivers have that,” said Kenni.

There is no denying that days at Food & Friends can be tough – there are a lot of people who need our help and conditions are not always on our side. Between inclement weather, extreme heat, road closings, and heavy traffic there are a lot of obstacles that can stand in the way of our drivers making successful deliveries. But our staff has a rapport that helps make the tough days a little easier.

“Coming in every morning, seeing everyone laughing and joking is my favorite part about working at Food & Friends. When you come in you know that you are going to have a hard day to tackle and connecting with everyone before heading out on to the road prepares you to tackle those challenges,” said Kenni.

Kenni takes great pride in the work he does every day for Food & Friends. Kenni was raised learning that if you can do anything to help someone less fortunate than yourself you are obligated to do so. This is evident in his tremendous work ethic and good spirit. We are happy to have him as part of the Food & Friends family and we know our clients feel the same way.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Brandon Nichols, Community Relations Associate

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:


Friday, August 7th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 6 People
Wednesday, August 12th | 6:00-8:00pm | Up to 6 People
Monday, August 24th | 6:00-8:00pm | Up to 6 People
Monday, August 31 | 1:00-3:00pm| Up to 6 People


Thursday, September 3rd | 6:00-8:00pm| Up to 8 People
Friday, September 4th | 9:00-12:00pm | Up to 16 People
Monday, September 7th | 1:00-3:00pm | Up to 8 People
Tuesday, September 8th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 People
Tuesday, September 8th | 1:00-3:00pm | Up to 8 People
Wednesday, September 9th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 People
Wednesday, September 9th | 1:00-3:00pm | Up to 8 People
Thursday, September 10th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 People
Monday, September 14th | 1:00-3:00pm | Up to 8 People
Tuesday, September 15th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 People
Wednesday, September 16th | 6:00-8:00pm| Up to 8 People
Thursday, September 17th | 9:00am-12:00pm | Up to 26 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!

CONTRIBUTED BY: Dana Krimker, Client Services Representative

Dana is the primary liaison to all clients on service and answers our delivery hotline. Dana received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Maryland and is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Health Care Ethics.


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!