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Mama's Kitchen secures new building to expand services

SAN DIEGO -- Mama's Kitchen, which has outgrown its current space in a church basement at the edge of downtown, will move its operations to a brand-new 11,000 square-foot facility at the end of this month.

The new location is nearly double the size of Mama's Kitchen's current home, which it has operated out of for the past 17 years.

Since its founding in 1990, Mama's Kitchen has delivered no cost meals to San Diegans living with HIV/AIDS seven days a week. Because the face of HIV/AIDS has changed and the services of Mam'as Kitchen have expanded, the organization found it necessary to expand their physical space.

When Mama's Kitchen was founded in the early 1990s, many in the HIV/AIDS community had high hopes that a cure for the disease was near, with the organization's founders only intending to stay in business as long as there was a need.

"As the face of the disease evolved and people with AIDS were living longer, our organization recognized it could no longer plan and operate in response to a crisis," said Alberto Cort├ęs, executive director of Mama's Kitchen.

As a result, said Cortes, the organization's leadership redefined its focus to reflect and accommodate the changing times and expanded its mission to also serve people living with cancer.

The organization's leadership set out to find a facility that would accommodate the changing needs of the residents that the organization serves and were able to purchase and renovate the building at 3960 Home Ave. in the Fairmount Park neighborhood of San Diego. Since Mama's Kitchen owns the new facility, the organization is no longer in a situation where it leases space from another entity and has a permanent home. The organization will now also have the ability serve more people and provide more in-house prepared foods.

Mama's Kitchen has prepared and packaged all meals out of the 5,500 square foot church basement for nearly two decades. While the organization also squeezed staff offices, meeting space and other functions into the cramped space, it continued to receive praise for providing high-quality services to its clients.

While the organization's leadership believed that purchasing a new building was in the best interest of continuing and expanding Mama's Ktichen's services, the board of directors had no choice as the owner of the church property chose not to renew the lease because of intentions to sell the property.

The new facility will include a number of features that Mama's Kitchen's staff, volunteers and board members believe will enhance operational and organizational efficiency, including:

-An industrial-sized commercial kitchen, equipped with modern equipment that will expand food preparation capacity and improve the quality and nutritional value of prepared meals.

- A more welcoming environment for the hundreds of volunteers who walk through its doors, which will incorporate appropriate workspaces for staff and volunteers.

- Adequate conference and classroom space to accommodate community meetings, volunteer orientations, trainings and education programs that will help service recipients, and enable staff, volunteers and community partners to stay informed, build skills and share resources.

- Space for the Mama's Pantry program, which has been house at a separate facility since its was created.

Mama's Pantry is a service of Mama's Kitchen that provides a nutritional shopping opportunity at no cost for low-income San Diegans affected by AIDS/HIV. The program was designed for clients living with HIV/AIDS who can benefit from occasional nutritional support to maintain their health and stretch their food budget. More than 700 people use the service, which has had more than 20,000 visits since its inception in 2004.

The pantry program is currently housed at a location in North Park but the new facility will provide ample space for the service and allow its operating hours to expand.

Mama's Kitchen's new facility will open on Monday, Aug. 29, and the organization says that it has been working hard to ensure that there will be no disruption of meal preparation or delivery service.

For more information, call (619) 233-6262.