Chicken Soup Brigade: nourishing the chronically ill

This article was originally published in March 2015

food bank chicken brigade

Food is medicine. For people living with HIV and other chronic illnesses, a nourishing meal can make a vital difference in the struggle for wellness. Chicken Soup Brigade improves the nutritional health of people living with chronic conditions and hunger in King County.

PCC is happy to partner with the Brigade to provide healthful foods for the Brigade’s clients with special dietary needs.

Chicken Soup Brigade is a project of Lifelong, an organization with a mission to empower people living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS or other chronic conditions to lead healthier lives. Lifelong’s origins date back to 1983, when folks passed a soup can around Volunteer Park and collected $42 to help people living with HIV/AIDS in our community. Today, more than 30 years later, Lifelong has remained a leader in serving people with HIV/AIDS. In addition to providing healthy food, it helps with housing and health care.

The program’s clients have specific health challenges not limited to HIV: diabetes, kidney disease, cancer or disabling arthritis. Most are living below poverty and all require assistance in managing their nutritional health. The Brigade offers a comprehensive food and nutrition program designed not only to feed people but to nourish them.

The Brigade has two programs: the grocery program and the meal program. In the grocery program, the Brigade delivers full bags of wholesome groceries that include dairy and meats, fresh produce and a variety of easily prepared comfort foods and snacks to people with chronic medical conditions. In the meal program, wholesome, homemade meals are prepared in the Brigade’s kitchen and frozen so the program’s clients can reheat at home. It’s all free to the clients.

Additionally, registered dieticians are available to meet with clients individually to discuss the basics of nutritional health. Dieticians recommend diet changes that work in clients’ current lifestyles, keeping in mind social and financial limitations.

PCC partnership

Many of the Brigade’s clients have special dietary needs (low sodium, nutrient-dense, low to no cooking). This inspired the Brigade and PCC to partner to provide healthier grocery items for the grocery program. PCC orders foods at wholesale prices that Chicken Soup Brigade needs and passes along the discounted cost. Brigade clients now can choose foods they were unable to buy before, such as organic coconut oil, low-sodium organic soups and pasture-raised eggs.

In addition, PCC is donating $750 worth of bulk foods each month to the grocery program.

“We’re so thrilled that we’ve been able to partner with PCC to begin ordering healthful foods through PCC’s distributor, UNFI,” says the Brigade’s lead dietician, Meghan Lyle. “Many clients have noticed the changes in the foods we’ve been able to bring into the pickup center where they come each week to choose their foods.”

For instance, Lyle says, “Last week we provided a variety of spices and I spoke with clients about using spices and herbs to prepare healthy meals at home.”

In 2014 the Chicken Soup Brigade provided food and nutrition services to 1,640 people in the Puget Sound region. It filled and distributed 37,047 grocery bags and served 161,401 meals.

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