Michael Thompson had no formal training feeding PWAs (other than himself) when he and several pals started preparing meals for housebound Lexington, Kentucky, HIVers in 1998. But the 48-year-old former thespian points out, “I had years of experience as a bartender, waiter and maitre d'—like any actor.” And so what this self-proclaimed “AIDSdinosaur” (who conquered wasting with protease therapy and good nutrition) started in friends' kitchens became Moveable Feast, which now boasts 75 volunteers delivering hot dinners daily—plus two bags of food a week—to local PWAs. His tips for starting a similar service:
Fill a real need. “Going out to find the food first won't work.” Instead ask: What services already exist? Where are the gaps? Your local ASO (find it in the POZ Health Services Directory) can point out the 'hoods that need help.
Learn from the pros. Thompson called God's Love We Deliver in New York City, Atlanta's Project Open Hand and the Association of Nutrition Services Agencies (202.289.5650 or www.ansanutrition.org) because “they knew what worked.”
Grab the spotlight and the funds will follow. Moveable Feast nabbed the attention of the local food pantry (where groceries are donated), the Episcopal Church and U. Kentucky frats, who all help out now. (You can, too. Send a check to Moveable Feast, PO Box 367, Lexington, KY 40588, or go to www.feastlex.org.)
And don't forget to feed yourself right. Thompson swears by www.gmhc.org's dietary fact sheet, the power of breaking bread with loved ones and celebrating food as a gift of survival. “A perfectly ripe pear,” says Kentucky's own AIDS-angel-in-an-apron, “can move someone to tears.”