A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Distribution of Meals and Groceries for Persons with Life-Challenging Illnesses

Last Revised: Mar 13, 2017 - Initial Posting: Jan 07, 2005

The mission of Food & Friends is to foster a community caring for men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling.


Food & FriendsFood & Friends packages and delivers meals and groceries to more than 2,800 people annually living with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses such as breast, lung and colon cancer throughout Washington, DC and 14 counties of Maryland and Virginia.  Determination of eligibility is health-based and there are no requirements for income or insurance coverage.  To be eligible for service, one must have a qualifying primary illness, compromised nutritional status and a limited ability to prepare his/her own meals due to factors such as disability, illness or medical treatment.

Services are specially designed to meet the unique needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS and other life challenging illnesses.  A team of chefs and registered dietitians designs all meals offered by Food & Friends.  Eleven (11) daily menus are offered to meet special dietary restrictions.  Vegetarian, pureed, diabetic, and mild are a few of the special meal plans that are available.

Detailed information on operational policies and procedures may be made available upon request for communities interested in developing similar initiatives.

The following services are provided:

  • Home-Delivered Meals - Food & Friends delivers nutritionally-balanced, delicious meals directly to our clients’ homes. Each delivery includes food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with liquid nutritional supplements, as needed. Our community dietitians and professional chefs work closely to provide individualized services to our clients. Food & Friends offers 11 specialized meal plans to meet our clients’ nutritional needs.
  • Groceries-to-Go - Food & Friends’ Groceries-to-Go service is available for individuals and families who live outside our freshly-prepared meals delivery area. It is also available for those clients who are able to do light meal preparation, or who have a caregiver to do so. Delivered to clients every other week, Groceries-to-Go includes fresh produce, frozen meats such as fish and poultry, frozen soups and entrees prepared in our kitchen, and pantry items. Dietitians work with each client to review nutrition and food safety as a part of the program. Clients receive a recipe booklet that includes cooking tips and recipes based on the food included in their grocery deliveries.  In addition to packaged groceries, clients receive 4 frozen prepared entrees, 2 frozen prepared soups and a protein pack of frozen fish and poultry. Clients may also receive liquid nutritional supplements as needed.
  • Nutrition Counseling and Education - At Food & Friends, we consider nutrition to be a vital part of the treatment for our clients. Our community dietitians provide personalized nutrition counseling and meal plans to address each client’s nutritional needs.  In addition, we provide the following services, all of which are free of charge:
    • Cooking classes
    • Educational handouts on increasing protein and calorie intake, food safety and more
    • Off-site group presentations on nutrition related to HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses

Numerous organizations serve as Referral Partners.  A Referral Form is available online for use by agencies or individuals themselves.  A Client Services staff member conducts a home visit with the first day of food delivery to provide expanded information about Food & Friends, as well as to assess the home environment.

Food & Friends relies greatly on volunteers to carry out its work.  Approximately 300 volunteers are involved each week in a variety of activities ranging from meal preparation, meal and grocery deliveries, organizing special fundraising events, etc.  Faithful Deliveries has been developed in partnership with faith communities to form teams among congregants who deliver groceries to clients and families in their own neighborhoods.

Sources of funding for Food & Friends are through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and Special Fundraising Events including:

  • Dining Out for Life - Area restaurants designate between 25-100% of their proceeds on a specified day to go to Food & Friends.  Volunteer ambassadors are assigned to each restaurant to distribute information about Food & Friends and to solicit additional contributions from diners.  Opportunities to develop this event in other communities may be explored through Dining Out for Life International.
  • Chef's Best Dinner and Auction - Over 1,000 supporters sample food prepared by 50 of the area's most noted chefs.
  • Slice of Life – Those in the community may order their Thanksgiving pies from Food & Friends and help deliver nutritious, life-saving meals to children and adults battling HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses.
  • Host Your Own Event with proceeds donated to Food & Friends.

Learn about other organizations offering similar services in other cities:

Community Servings      God's Love We Deliver      Project Angel Food      Project Angel Heart      Project Open Hand

Other useful information and materials may be accessed through the links below.  Note - Providing this listing does not reflect endorsement by WeCanEndHunger.org, VirtualCAP.org or Food & Friends, Inc.


Food & Friends By the Numbers – In 2016, Food & Friends delivered an average of 2,883 meals per day/75,426 meals per month over a delivery area covering 5,346 square miles.

Here are some stories featuring Food & Friends clients and volunteers.


Carolyn Schmidt, Chief Development Officer