Mama’s Kitchen prepares and distributes nutritious meals for people who are unable to do so themselves because of their health. It was founded by a San Diego caregiver in 1990.
The nonprofit was launched with support from dedicated volunteers who joined together to support those diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. It continues to provide meal delivery services to these individuals as well as to people diagnosed with cancer who are unable to shop and cook for themselves.
Meals are provided free of charge to more than 1,300 people in San Diego County per year. Since its establishment, Mama’s Kitchen has delivered in excess of 8 million meals. Moreover, it has expanded its programming to include educational workshops and medical nutrition therapy. Below is an overview of the nonprofit’s six programs:
1. AIDS Nutrition
Mama’s Kitchen is the only nonprofit in San Diego County that delivers three meals per day to individuals affected by HIV and other physical ailments. It follows a specific nutrition program for individuals with an AIDS or HIV Symptomatic diagnosis. Those who qualify must have a referral from a health care provider or case manager. Re-certification is required every six months.
The executive chef at Mama’s Kitchen follows the daily nutritional guidelines for individuals with AIDS/HIV Symptomatic as recommended by the American Dietetic Association in preparing 19 different meal plans. Meals vary over a six-week menu cycle and are delivered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The program is supported by the County of San Diego’s Health Resources and Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant.
2. Cancer Nutrition
As with the AIDS Nutrition Program, Mama’s Kitchen’s Cancer Nutrition Program includes 19 different meal plans spread out through six weeks. These meals are personalized to meet the nutritional guidelines of individuals affected by cancer.
Recipients must also have a referral from a social worker, case manager, or physician, and ongoing communication with the referral source is required for re-certification purposes. The Cancer Nutrition Program is funded by the same agencies as the AIDS Nutrition Program and receives additional support from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s San Diego affiliate, which places emphasis on women diagnosed with breast cancer.
3. Children’s Nutritional Health
It’s an even greater concern when individuals diagnosed with cancer or HIV Symptomatic/AIDS have young children who are unable to cook their own meals. To address this, Mama’s Kitchen also provides meals to any dependents of its clients free of charge. In 2016 alone, the nonprofit distributed more than 40,000 meals to children of those requiring its services.
In addition to the aforementioned partners, Mama’s Kitchen receives financial support from generous donors who participate in community fund-raising events or its annual Mama’s Day. The 2019 event was sponsored by organizations and companies like the Gay & Lesbian Fund for San Diego, Hay Foundation, Pepsi, and Shamrock Foods.
4. Pantry Service
In addition to its home delivery meal service, Mama’s Kitchen operates a food pantry for individuals diagnosed with HIV or AIDS whose income is less than $1,700 per month. Qualified individuals can only visit the pantry once per month. However, they can select non-perishable items from a wide selection of cereals, canned goods, and pastas. The pantry also typically has a limited number of perishable items, including bread, fresh fruit, and meat.
To ensure the pantry is regularly stocked with these items, Mama’s Kitchen encourages local businesses, places of worship, and schools to host food drives and even delivers food bins if required. It also accepts online donations so that it can purchase food in bulk at wholesale prices.
5. Emergency Food Assistance
Mama’s Kitchen also operates the Emergency Food Assistance (EFA) program. The program is made possible by funding from San Diego County’s Ryan White Care Act. EFA is available to all county residents who have been diagnosed with HIV, providing they are referred through a case manager.
Unlike the pantry service, eligibility isn’t restricted by income. Those who participate in EFA receive as many as 12 weekly grocery bags over a one-year period. These bags contain sufficient perishable and non-perishable food items to make three meals per day for an entire week. The bags also include suggested meal ideas.
6. Personal Nutrition Coaching
In addition to its food delivery services, Mama’s Kitchen employs a registered dietician (RD). Mama’s Kitchen’s current RD, Stephanie Boyd, can help teach recipients how to eat smart with a balance of the five food groups and improve their overall condition through nutrition. She is available to meet one-on-one with AIDS/HIV Symptomatic patients to discuss individualized diet and nutrition strategies.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people with HIV, in particular, should emphasize healthy foods in their diets to help boost their immune system. They should also prioritize foods that are low in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.