ASC's pantry bags contain a variety of fresh and canned foods that are nutritious and easy to prepare.
ASC has always known that to engage people in HIV risk reduction and health maintenance, their fundamental need for food, shelter, and clothing must first be addressed. Once these essentials are in place, attention can be focused on reducing risk and promoting physical and emotional self-care.
ASC's Basic Needs Program is founded on this principle. The program includes our "Wonderful Wearables" Clothing Room, Direct Aid Emergency Assistance Program, and onsite meal program. Two additional programs—the ASC Pantry and ASC Kitchen—ensure that our clients have enough food to eat and the knowledge to prepare meals that can boost their immune system, energy level, and overall health.
In a typical month, the ASC Pantry provides 100 ASC clients with a three-day supply of vegetables, fruits, meats, beans, grains, and other foods than promote good nutrition. Distribution takes place on the third Friday of every month.
In the eyes of Fulvia Alvelo, Co-Director of Prevention Services, the ASC Pantry is "a beautiful program." Her reasoning? "Many of our clients cannot afford things most of us take for granted—like being able to buy a whole bunch of bananas or a bag of oranges. When I see clients—especially those with children—arrive for the Pantry, I know we are improving their quality of life by providing nutritious food that they lack the resources to buy."
But that's not all. "The ASC Pantry shows clients that we care about them," adds Alvelo, "and this helps to engage them in services. Some people come to ASC for the first time through the Pantry, but once they see how well they are treated here, they decide to access other services. The Pantry is part of a larger effort to remove the barriers that keep people from getting the help they need."
The Pantry's "sister" program is the ASC Kitchen, a weekly nutrition education group that serves 20 to 30 individuals who gather together to share a hot lunch and learn about healthy eating, cooking, and food preparation.
"We demonstrate how to prepare healthy meals using hot plates, because many of our clients—especially those living in single-room occupancy hotels—don't have a stove," explains ASC Harm Reduction Specialist Suzanne Bessoir, who co-facilitates the ASC kitchen with a Peer Educator. The group also shares healthy, easy-to-prepare recipes. "We eat the foods we cook during the group," says Bessoir, "and the group gets more popular all the time."