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Op-ed: One Gourmet Meal Can Help Feed Thousands

Op-ed: One Gourmet Meal Can Help Feed Thousands


GMHC's Savor dinner is one that keeps people feeling full all year.

Visiting our Meals Program is like visiting a busy restaurant. Our Chef Wilson Rodriguez, his staff, volunteers and student interns are in the kitchen preparing food, and teams of volunteers are serving meals and bussing tables in the dining room. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, our clients enjoy hot and nutritious meals. Over 90,000 meals are served annually at GMHC to men and women living with HIV and AIDS.

As you can imagine, serving this immense amount of meals is quite an expense. It is one that GMHC is proud to spend. Each year, to support our work, we host a dinner called Savor. Savor brings a warm, wonderful dining experience to our dedicated donors. It is this dinner that helps to nurture our clients, many of whom are stigmatized for living with HIV or AIDS. We have the opportunity to share with our donors about our life-sustaining work and how we address stigma, homophobia, discrimination—and more.

That’s why I am inspired of our fifth annual fundraiser, Savor, which will feature some of the best chefs in the country. They will put their hearts into providing our guests with a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. It is an honor and privilege to be joined by this exceptional, culinary dream team: Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef of Butter and The Darby, who recently won The Next Iron Chef on Food Network; Justin Warner, chef of Do or Dine and Season 8 winner of Food Network Star; Silvano Fiorindo, executive chef of Cipriani Wall Street; and Colleen Grapes, Pastry Chef of the Red Cat and the Harrison.

This year, GMHC will honor the Keith Haring Foundation and Joy Tomchin at Savor. The Keith Haring Foundation has been tremendously supportive in funding our Keith Haring Food Pantry Program which distributes groceries and provides nutritional counseling to our clients in need, ensuring they are fed. Joy Tomchin will be saluted for her longstanding philanthropy to GMHC and for producing the powerful Academy Award-nominated documentary, How to Survive a Plague. Her film feeds the souls of longtime and new AIDS activists, alerting us that there is much more work to be done. The chefs and honorees are passionate in their work and support in the fight against AIDS.

At GMHC, our work comes from our hearts. We are committed to GMHC’s mission—to fight to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected.

Our lunches served on Monday to Thursday and dinners on Friday provide clients, who may have anxiety about food, with a place where they can feel secure and less afraid about being hungry. The space where we serve meals takes on even deeper levels of support as well. Each day, our dining room becomes a community room, a family room, a place where people can meet others and build friendships. Recently, Wilson shared with me a story of a client at a recent dinner who, while seated at a table with others, was alone and isolated. He sat quietly eating and crying. Wilson found an empty chair and pulled up next to him, wanting to find out why he was in tears. The client shared that the food reminded him of his mother's cooking. She had died a few years ago, but what made his grief even worse was his father refused to talk to him because he was HIV-positive.

Unfortunately, we continue to hear stories about times when family members and neighbors have humiliated our clients for living with HIV or AIDS—it is depressing and disheartening. They are made to feel like they do not deserve good things in their lives. We know that is not true. We want our clients to know they deserve the best—in all of our services. The best quality of food is purchased despite our budget being tightened each year as government funding of HIV/AIDS programs continues to decline. The people we serve profoundly appreciate our commitment to them.

By joining us for Savor on March 21 at Cipriani 42nd Street, you can help us feed the hearts of people living with HIV and AIDS.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit


MARJORIE J. Hill, PhD, is the chief executive officer of the GMHC in New York.

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