20 years ago, Easter Armas witnessed an acquaintance of hers, a brilliant lawyer who had lost his job because he was HIV-positive, eating from a dumpster. The sight devastated her, and she became determined that no one living with HIV/AIDS should live with hunger.
As a result, Easter (pictured right with one of the many clients she has helped over the years) began “Easter Sundays,” a monthly dinner served at McLaren House for people living with HIV/AIDS. The dinners were prepared by volunteers and provided not only food, but also company and comfort to those in need.
A short while later, Easter and her friends formed the Vancouver Meals Society (which was later renamed A Loving Spoonful in 1994). It was the first meal program in Canada to provide free meals for people living with HIV and AIDS; they had five clients. The small team of dedicated volunteers expected that they would only be needed for a few years, as they thought a cure for AIDS was surely just around the corner. However, 20 years later the organization is still going strong.
While great medical strides have been made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, proper nutrition is still pivotal in battling the illness – as many as 80% of AIDS-related deaths are precipitated by malnutrition rather than by the disease itself. In many cases, people with HIV or AIDS lack the physical endurance or resources to ensure their unique dietary needs are being met. For the past 20 years, A Loving Spoonful has ensured that their clients receive healthy, nutritious and easy-to-prepare meals that are delivered to their home with a smile and a lot of heart by volunteer drivers.
A Loving Spoonful is still the only organization in Vancouver that delivers meals free-of-charge to those living with HIV/AIDS, and receives new applications on a daily basis. In recent years, the organization has expanded and launched new programs to address new areas of need, including an Emergency Services program for individuals with acute medical needs, as well as a Family Pantry program to help support families where one or both parents (and in some cases, children) are living with HIV/AIDS.
“Our clients’ stories are compelling and inspiring, and demonstrate that 20 years later, we are needed more than ever,” says Lisa Martella, executive director of A Loving Spoonful. “Until there is a cure, A Loving Spoonful will continue to provide love, hope, food and nutritional support to those who need it most; and that’s a recipe for a longer, healthier and happier life.”
In the past 20 years, A Loving Spoonful has served over 1.75 million meals; grown from 5 clients to over 300; grown from 15 active volunteers to over 200, logging over 160,000 hours of volunteer time; and raised over 12-million dollars in private donations.
“In 20 years we have accomplished more than I had ever imagined was possible,” says Easter Armas. “I am extremely thankful for all the volunteers and donors that have generously supported us with their time and money, and extremely proud that we continue to deliver meals that are not just highly nutritious, but also provide our clients with a sense of community and show them that they are not alone or forgotten.”
A Loving Spoonful will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an event at Five Sixty (560 Seymour Street, Vancouver) on September 25th, from 7 pm to 10 pm. Tickets are $20 and available at www.alovingspoonful.org.