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October 24, 2016


This October, Food & Friends reached a new milestone—serving its 20 millionth home delivered meal! Much has changed at Food & Friends over the years – we’ve expanded services, grown into new facilities, evolved our menu – but the personal impact of serving a meal to a neighbor remains a cornerstone of our work. It’s a communal act that, no matter how many times you do it, never fades in its importance.

In the early days of Food & Friends, during the height of the AIDS crisis, meals were about providing compassion and calories for clients who were near the end of their life. Today, we serve virtually the same number of people living with HIV/AIDS as when we opened our current building 12 years ago, but we also respond to the needs of adults and children living with cancer and other serious illnesses. Our clients have specific dietary needs as a result of their illness or treatments and may be managing several health problems at once.

“Our clients’ needs may look different than in the past. They still have an acute need for our service, but also have complex additional health issues. For instance, we know that folks with HIV are also at greater risk for heart failure and diabetes than the general population. I think our food has come a long way in addressing that complexity,” commented Carrie Stoltzfus, MPH, Director of Program Services.

The meals we provide to our clients are not only essential nourishment, but are carefully developed to improve health outcomes and overall well-being. For example, we can now help those with difficulty chewing or swallowing with a pureed or soft meal plan, or we can address their broader health needs with a diabetic, renal, or heart healthy meal plan.

More broadly, our staff of registered dietitians and trained chefs have worked together closely over the years to shift our meals and grocery programs toward what’s commonly known as a Mediterranean Diet, focusing on fresh vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and lean meats and seafood.

“While this shift incurs higher costs and more prep time in the kitchen, the benefits to our clients are undeniable,” said Executive Chef Mark Locraft. “We’re committed to cooking more healthy and tailored food for our clients to ensure their greatest chances for a long and healthful life.”

The 20 million meals that we’ve prepared in our kitchen have only been possible through the work of tens of thousands of dedicated members of the community, like you. As we continue to evolve as an organization, we know that each meal and every meal has a direct impact on a client’s life. Here’s to 20 million more!

September 29, 2016

Jumping Into Action: A Volunteer Shares His Experience on the Food & Friends Delivery Route

By Johnny Pitchford, Food & Friends Volunteer

I have been volunteering at Food & Friends for just 2 years now.  In that time, I have worked mainly in the kitchen and in the development office on special events, but have had occasion to work on projects in most all departments in the building.

A recent email message from Volunteer Services Manager Beth Stewart caught my eye.  It was about a new volunteer position, “Delivery Jumper.”  This assignment involves going out on a daily run with one of the staff drivers, delivering prepared meals and groceries-to-go to the homes of clients.  I was intrigued because very few of my previous volunteer experiences had involved client interaction.  While I had done just about every volunteer task within the building, I hadn’t taken the step of going out on delivery by myself.  So, I decided to give it a try.

Beth assigned me to work with staff driver Antoine Johnson.  We met on the loading dock that morning, loaded up his van, and headed out.  Antoine knew the routes and the clients well, and I was able to help by jumping out of the van and delivering the food to the client, their family member or caregiver, while Antoine called the next home to let them know we were on the way.

We made over 40 deliveries that day to the northeastern and southeastern section of the District.  In some cases, the client asked me to relay a message back to Antoine, like “don’t let him forget my birthday cake next week,” showing the personal connection he has made with the clients on his route.
I must say that having Antoine as my driver and “teacher” that day made the time go by quickly.  His warm and engaging personality, tips about shortcuts to improve his efficiency, and anecdotes from his past experiences as a driver, made for an enjoyable day in itself. 

It was a full day, and my muscles were tired that evening…but a “pleasant” tired.  More importantly, it was an extremely heartwarming yet humbling experience to approach the front door of home after home of individuals you know to be living with a life-challenging illness, and to be met with a warm smile and a “thank you” in each case.

Having spent many hours preparing and packaging food in the kitchen on Riggs Road for clients that have been faceless until now, my day on the road with Antoine brought my Food & Friends experience full circle.  It reinforced in my mind the critical value of what we all do together at Food & Friends day after day, week after week, year after year.

I encourage my fellow volunteers to take advantage of this new opportunity.  I’m doing it again next week.

Note: If you are interested in volunteering as a Delivery Jumper, please contact or call (202) 269-2277. We'd love to have you!

September 6, 2016

Healthy Eating on a Budget

With rising interest in organic produce, artisan food products and exotic ingredients, a trip to the grocery store can leave you feeling price-gouged.  Healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank though, as long as you avoid certain pitfalls.  Read on to learn the mistakes commonly made at the grocery store and at home that undermine your food budget:


“I didn’t plan ahead”
Did you know about 60% of food purchases are unplanned?*  Not only do these purchases tend to be less healthy, but they also add to your total spending.  Save some money by planning out your shopping trip ahead of time.  By deciding on a few meals in advance, you can take into account what you already have at home and streamline your visit to the grocery store.  If you still need help avoiding those impulse purchases, challenge yourself to get in and out of the store in a certain time limit.

“I didn’t look for the deals”
Competition is fierce among grocery stores, which is why so many of them offer loyalty programs for their “valued customers”.  Loyalty programs usually come with a card you can swipe at check-out for extra discounts.  They also give you access to online coupons that you can’t find in the store.  On top of that, grab a copy of the store’s circular, a weekly printout of in-store sales and specials.  Most are available online, so you can even use the circular to plan out meals before you shop (just remember to avoid the junk food).

A cooking class held by one of our registered dietitians
“I didn’t stock up”
Healthful eating is so much easier when the ingredients are at home and ready to use.  Keep your fridge and pantry stocked so you’re not tempted by the convenience of fast food or takeout.  Sometimes it’s helpful to prepare chopped ingredients the day before and refrigerate them in a ziplock bag to save time later.  Big sales can also be a great time to fill your cart with healthy staples like canned fish, dried beans and grains, and frozen veggies.

“I wasted my food”
You may have heard Americans waste a lot of food—specifically, $371 worth of food per person per year.  There are many ways to save your food from a landfill (and save money in the process).  Large cooked dishes can be individually portioned and frozen on standby for your next quick meal.  You can repurpose leftovers and fruit and vegetable scraps.  For example, beet greens can be used just like chard or collards, and carrot tops make a bright pesto.  Even orange zest from discarded peels makes a flavorful addition to salads and baked goods.  Also note that “Best Before”, “Use By” and “Sell By” dates are used to indicate peak freshness and NOT when a packaged food is spoiled, so don’t be too quick to toss it out.  However, regarding perishable foods like meat and dairy, refrigerate or freeze as appropriate and consume before the date specified.  Also, be sure to throw out anything showing signs of mold or off odors.

Healthy eating can be expensive, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.  Use our tips to improve the way you shop and cook.  Small changes in planning ahead, looking for discounts, storing food properly and reducing waste can translate to huge savings.

* Inman, J. Jeffrey, Russell S. Winer and Rosellina Ferraro (2009), “The Interplay Between Category Characteristics, Customer Characteristics, And Customer Activities on In-Store Decision Making,” Journal of Marketing, 73 (September), 19-29. 

August 29, 2016

Making an Impact: One Volunteer Goes Above and Beyond to Care for a Client

By Craig Shniderman, Executive Director, Food & Friends

This past weekend while I was checking my email, I found an unusual and particularly heartwarming message. Our Client Services Manager reported on an out of the ordinary encounter between a client and volunteer delivery person. One of our clients, a 91 years old woman in hospice care, received her regular Saturday delivery from Daniel, a regular volunteer. What was unusual about this delivery was that Daniel found the client in distress and took it upon himself to ensure her well-being. He contacted the client’s family member and the hospice provider, as well as Food & Friends staff, to alert them of the situation. Working together, our teams made sure to quickly get the appropriate care to the client.

I found this quite remarkable because our volunteers’ responsibility is limited to simply delivering the food. But like many others here, Daniel has developed a personal relationship with several of the clients to whom he delivers. After Daniel completed the rest of his delivery route on Saturday, he went back to the client’s house to make sure she was receiving the help she needed. She lives in the District, so this was not particularly convenient for Daniel, who lives in Arlington.  His attachment to this client and his sense of responsibility compelled him to go this extra step.

I called Daniel on Saturday after I heard this story from Rachel and had a wonderful conversation with him. I learned that Daniel and his wife Elisa became volunteers at Food & Friends 22 years ago and have remained interested in the organization ever since. They lived away from the Washington area for a while, but when they returned, Daniel told me that one of the first things they did was to reestablish a volunteer relationship with Food & Friends. 

When people ask what about Food & Friends is different than other food delivery programs, we generally talk about the specialty diets and nutritional counseling that we provide to all of our clients. But one of the things that really sets us apart beyond this is the degree of engagement by many of our volunteers. 

We recently surveyed our volunteers, and one of the striking revelations is the extent to which our volunteers are invested in our clients and wanted to grow those relationships. Many expressed a desire to interact more with clients, or simply know more about how the clients are faring. One way we have responded to these requests is to introduce a pilot volunteer delivery program called “Delivery Jumpers.” These volunteers will accompany our staff drivers on their delivery routes and assist with bringing the meals door to door. It will be a great opportunity for volunteers who are looking to interact with clients, but may not be able or comfortable with delivering on their own. It will also a boon for our drivers who will benefit from the extra help. 

The value of the Food & Friends experience comes not just from the food, but from the impactful relationships that so often develop between the volunteer and client. This commitment to excellence is something that we often talk about in terms of staff responsibilities and interactions with clients, but we also see this exemplary compassion in volunteers like Daniel and Elisa.