December 1st is World AIDS Day. As the largest home-delivered meal provider in the Southeast for individuals living with HIV/AIDS, Open Hand commemorates World AIDS Day with a commitment to continue to help lead the fight to end the HIV epidemic.
This World AIDS Day, one of our incredible Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), Jennifer Baugh, wanted to speak to the work she does with those living with HIV/AIDS here in Atlanta through her work with Open Hand: "I serve people under the Ryan White Part A program as a RDN, providing individualized medical nutrition therapy and group cooking classes.
"The power of food extends to the body, mind, and spirit. Open Hand helps my education be more effective by providing pantry items, meals, and fresh produce to my clients. I directly hear what an impact the food has made in their lives. They share with me their stress, struggles, and anxiety about food and the way it relates to their HIV/AIDS management. When they are cared for, my clients have reported improvements in stress, sleep, and medical symptoms because of the combination of food assistance and individualized medical nutrition therapy. Being food secure and knowing how to nourish your body helps them take care of themselves and face the day. In group classes, people connect over food and make new friendships."
There are several participants from Jennifer's Ryan White group cooking classes that express the positive change our support has provided them:
"I loved being here! It was nice learning new things and meeting new people. I learned a lot about where I need to improve for my health. I'm so grateful for the nutritional consults we can get afterwards. This program is very helpful. God bless!"
"I love getting the produce box because I have gotten fruits and vegetables that would not normally buy, such as eggplant and squash. The cooking class is excellent because we got a chance to participate in preparing and cooking the meal of the day."
"I was very impressed that I feel like I've learned to eat healthy. Making a change in my diet is very important to me... I was so excited to learn how to prep and cook with my health in mind. Thank you for you all support."
At Open Hand, we're honored to play a role in combatting HIV/AIDS, and supporting those in our community who live with it. We also want to take a moment to remember all those we have loved and lost since our founding in 1988, when we started as neighbors serving meals to their friends and loved ones disenfranchised by the AIDS crisis. We honor our impassioned founder Michael Edwards Pruitt, our staff, and the army of dedicated volunteers who have continued to work so hard to afford every individual we have served a better quality of life.
"Working with people living with HIV or AIDS has taught me more about how policies and funding affect people’s lives," says Jennifer. "I pray there are always resources given to those living with HIV because the body cannot be starved to win this game. I also pray that we can achieve an end to HIV while not shaming anyone who has been diagnosed."