Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

New food program helps people with HIV

Megan Rohrer allots donated groceries to food boxes to be distributed to those in need as part of Welcome Ministry's HIV+ Grocery Project.(Photo: Rick Gerharter) 
A new program in San Francisco aims to help people who are living with HIV and need help getting food but want to cook for themselves.

The HIV+ Grocery Project started last weekend.

"I was really inspired to think about ways to feed individuals who are vulnerable because of the way their immune systems are built," said pastor Megan Rohrer, who is transgender and is executive director of the Welcome Ministry, which provides food, housing referrals, and other services. "The idea of feeding vulnerable populations in large food groups, like where you have to gather and eat with people during cold and flu season just because you don't have enough food to take your medicines, felt like a disservice."

The first day was Saturday, October 5 at St. Francis Lutheran Church, 152 Church Street. Rohrer said organizers plan to continue the giveaways through the end of 2014.

Rohrer said that she is not looking to "take over or move aside" what other food-related agencies are doing, but she wants to offer more choices.

Participants should have access to cooking facilities and a refrigerator or freezer.
Signing up for the program is simple.

Each participant is asked to fill out a form of what food they like, and what they don't like.

"We won't be requiring any medical information from people," said Rohrer. "We're doing it on the honor system. We don't want to have any records of people's HIV-positive status."

Participants don't have to be San Francisco residents to receive food.

Additionally, "People can pick any first name and last initial they'd like," said Rohrer.
There shouldn't be any lines.

"People will RSVP and they'll have a half-hour window where they can pick up their box," said Rohrer, who added that people may also volunteer to sort food "and take a box home with them."

Gabriel, who's 63 and didn't want his last name published, went to the church Saturday and picked up meat, bananas, apples, bread, and other items.

"My Social Security check does not cover everything. It only covers my rent," said Gabriel. "At times, I don't have enough to get by with what I'm getting." He said he'd "absolutely" return for more food.

Until a couple months ago, Gabriel was homeless, but he now lives in a Mission district apartment.

He declined to say whether he has HIV, but said he is a bone marrow cancer survivor.

Organizers have done outreach through Project Homeless Connect and other venues.

Two people have signed up so far. Rohrer said the plan is to start with 12 to 25 participants each week and get other church congregations involved.

Donors include supermarkets that provide food that's set to expire within a week.

People interested in participating can contact the church at (415) 621-2635 or email Rohrer at

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