Ruth Brinker, a grandmother and retired food service worker at the time, started cooking and delivering nutritious meals to San Francisco gay men debilitated by HIV/AIDS in 1985. Since then, Project Open Hand, the nonprofit she founded, has become a model for similar organizations worldwide and it has grown to serve people with other serious illnesses and to serve Alameda and Contra Costa counties in addition to San Francisco.

Project Open Hand, whose motto is “Meals with Love,” now delivers more than 200 bags of groceries and 2,500 life-saving meals daily to people with HIV, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other complex illnesses, and to those experiencing social isolation or aging-related health challenges.

Project Open Hand is also a founding partner of the Food Is Medicine Coalition, a nationwide collaborative that supports research and advocates for valuing nutritious food as a foundation of medical care. The coalition’s “Food is Medicine” philosophy has influenced health care nationally and globally.

On this week’s Out in the Bay, hear about Project Open Hand‘s current operations and history, its founder Ruth Brinker, and the Food is Medicine movement from CEO Paul Hepfer and Lee Jewell, a long-time Project Open Hand client and former board member who serves on San Francisco’s HIV Community Planning Council. We also hear clips from The Ruth Brinker Story, a short documentary film that premiered at the Castro Theater in May and is being considered by film festivals nationwide. Brinker died in August, 2011 at age 89.

Chow down for a good cause! Project Open Hand fundraiser Dining Out for Life East Bay takes place Thursday, September 29, in Oakland, and other East Bay locations. Find a list of restaurants that will donate a share of Sept. 29 lunch and dinner sales at Dining Out for Life East Bay’s web page. (Scroll down for restaurant list.) Eateries can still sign up.

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