Food Outreach provides lifeline for people living with AIDS, can

ST. LOUISûFor someone living with a serious illness, good nutrition sometimes falls between the cracks as patients struggle through weakness, loss of appetite, taking medicine, paying bills and other difficulties. Food Outreach in St. Louis provides a sen

"The majority of our clients are African American. With our HIV program, it’s probably 58 percent. With our cancer, it’s probably like 52 percentû but it is more than half,” said Executive Director Greg Lukeman. “Sixty-five percent of clients are living at the federal poverty level. We’ve never had a waiting list for services.

We are the only AIDS agency in St. Louis where people can walk off the street and have services as long as they can prove their status.” The operation is sustained through donations. Kenny Martin became a client eight years ago following a series of illnesses and a serious hospitalization related to a positive HIV diagnosis.

“My doctor put me on a diet because my lungs were collapsing. Dr. Matthew Germanû he hooked me up with Food Outreach,” Martin said. Food Outreach clients range in age from 3 to 93 and live in 137 ZIP codes within a 200-mile radius in Missouri and Illinois. Clients may pick up groceries or volunteers deliver prepared meals and groceries to the homes of men and women who are too sick to pick up their own food or to cook for themselves.

At first, Martin wasn’t strong enough to pick up his groceries, to cook or even move around very well. He used the Food Outreach monthly menu and called in his order. “They delivered it to my house. When I got strong enough, I would pick up my own food. I only use it when I need it,” Martin said.

Eight years later, Martin is taking less medication now and volunteering at Doorways, a residential facility for persons living with HIV/AIDS. “With HIV, there are certain drugs that require certain foods to be effective. Some have to be taken on a full stomach to help with absorption. We can use our food to help patients tolerate their medicines,” Lukeman said. Lukeman said some HIV drugs are protease inhibitors, which can cause diabetes.

Although everything on Food Outreach menus are usually high-protein, heart-healthy and trans-fat-free, they can adjust the menu based on the needs of the client. “The menu can be tailored to be a diabetic diet and we work with (a dietician) to see what other things they can do to keep diabetes in check,” Lukeman said.

Food Outreach began serving cancer patients three years ago. “When you go through cancer treatment, your taste buds change. Having a choice is very important,” said Karen Moody, community affairs officer at Food Outreach.

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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