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COMMENTARY: Mama's move to serve more in San Diego

On Monday, Aug. 29, Mama’s Kitchen, a 20-year-old nonprofit organization that delivers healthy, free meals to San Diegans affected by HIV/AIDS, cancer and other critical illnesses, moved its operations to 3960 Home Ave., in the San Diego community of Fairmount Park. The location will be different, the mission remains the same, and the capacity will increase.

For the past 17 years, Mama’s Kitchen called a leased church basement of 5,500 square feet home. All meals were prepared and packaged for delivery at this location, and staff offices and meeting space were also located at the church. The organization had long outgrown the space.

The new Fairmount Park location will equip the organization with an industrial-size commercial kitchen, expanded workspaces for staff and volunteers and conference rooms and classrooms for community meetings and trainings.

The move will also allow the organization’s pantry service, Mama’s Pantry, to increase hours of operation and offer perishable items, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as nonperishable items.

Mama’s Kitchen was formed in 1990 when volunteers from the AIDS Assistance Fund discovered that people with AIDS were dying from complications of malnutrition long before their immune systems were overcome by AIDS. Many were low-income and too ill, isolated or emotionally devastated to prepare meals for themselves.

Mama’s Kitchen was established to offer nutritional support by way of a home meal delivery service. In 2006, the organization expanded its service beyond AIDS. Today, San Diegans affected by AIDS or cancer could be eligible for services.

Living with a critical illness is challenging not only physically and emotionally – but also financially.

Health care and home care expenses can be overwhelming. The recession has added to these challenges. When you consider that 3 million people in this country are diagnosed with a critical illness each year, it’s easy to see why the services provided by Mama’s Kitchen are equally critical.

For critically ill individuals with dependent children, the challenges become even greater. When Mama’s Kitchen discovered parents with critical illness were sharing their meals with their children, the organization created the Children’s Nutritional Health Program. The program helps to ensure children of parents with a critical illness also receive the nutrition they need. In 2009 Mama’s Kitchen supplied more than 43,000 meals to 75 children.

Mama’s Kitchen also opened Mama’s Pantry in February 2004 for clients who don't need home meal deliveries, but can benefit from an occasional bag of groceries to help maintain their health and stretch their food budgets. Once per month, clients with HIV/AIDS can visit Mama’s Pantry and select their own non-perishable items such as cereals, pastas and canned goods from a wide inventory. Mama's Pantry serves more than 700 low-income San Diegans every year.

Mama’s Kitchen serves, on average 888 meals per day. In 2010, the organization served 324,144 meals. July 15, 2010 marked a milestone in the organization’s history as San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders delivered meal number 5 million.

Just like other nonprofits, Mama’s Kitchen relies on the generosity of the community to keep its services going. Monetary donations, canned food and volunteer time are always needed. Food costs have risen almost 10% this year alone and the organization welcomes any and all support from the community.

The move to the new facility on Home Avenue represents evolution in a community of changing needs. Our new facility is a statement that we will be here and responsive to community needs for years to come.

Since the first day of operations Mama’s Kitchen has never turned anyone away who qualified for services and this new location helps to ensure that they never will. We are setting ourselves to be relevant and responsive beyond what we can envision today.

For more information or to learn how you can support the work of Mama's Kitchen, click HERE or call (619) 233-6262.