Load to get heavier for Moveable Feast Meals: The Baltimore cooking and delivery service foresees new pressures as the changing face of AIDS adds to its clientele.

September 26, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

People with AIDS juggle diets, pills and complex schedules for taking their medicine.

They need certain foods and must avoid others. Some drugs require empty stomachs and some full. Meanwhile, newer medications taken in so-called three-drug cocktails complicate matters more.

It's a daily balancing act often done alone.

Yet each day about 180 mostly homebound people with AIDS, too sick to shop or cook, get companionship and three meals delivered in metropolitan Baltimore by Moveable Feast. It's a 7-year-old cooking and delivery service facing pressures from more and more thankful clients.

Judith Wagner of Cockeysville said she was diagnosed in 1989 with acquired immune deficiency syndrome from drug usage and by March 1995 had lost 80 pounds.

"I had no energy and didn't know what to do. I called Moveable Feast on a Saturday, and on a Monday they started coming. I regained my weight within months. A man named Dave brings me food and is so nice to me."

Wagner, 43, who has cancer and whose history includes homelessness, said she "turned my life over to God four years ago." She said she grows vegetables on her patio, enjoys her cat and, as a recovering substance abuser, tells groups that it's never too late to improve their lives. "There's hope and help out there. The Moveable Feast people are an example they are really good people."

Last year, Moveable Feast served 137,000 free meals to 550 people, some of whom discontinued the service when their health improved, or resumed it when their health declined. Moveable Feast has 700 clients this year.

"It'll be 100 to 150 more next year," said James H. Williams, the new executive director of Moveable Feast, which is planning strategies to meet the heavier load. He said the agency has served all people referred to it by doctors and others but that its capacity is being strained.

"The face of AIDS is changing," Williams said.

Of 442 new Maryland cases reported by the state from January to June, 14.3 percent were white and 83.9 percent were black; 26 percent were women and 74 percent were men.

Although most of the 70 Moveable Feast volunteers and 10 staff members are gay white males, Williams said, "Eighty percent of our clients are African-Americans, 40 percent are women and we're seeing more children.

"We need to broaden the base of support -- money and volunteers -- beyond the gay community. The problem grows and malnutrition remains involved in 80 percent of AIDS deaths."

Pointing out that blacks who share needles in drug use are increasingly getting AIDS, he said, "We need help from the African-American community."

According to the state AIDS Administration, through December 1995, 13,066 people had AIDS. Of those, 240 were younger than 13.

For two years in a row, the state has ranked fifth in the nation in the incidence of AIDS: 2,686 new cases or a rate of 53.7 cases per 100,000 population in 1994; and 2,575 new cases, or 51.1, in 1995.

Of 326 male cases from January through June this year, nearly twice as many were from intravenous drug use (48.8 percent) as were from men having unsafe sex with other men (26.4 percent).

Williams, 60, has been an educator, teachers union leader and social activist. He was married for 25 years. He and his wife jTC raised two children. Five years ago, during divorce proceedings against his wife, he disclosed to his family that he is gay.

Until year's end, he remains president of Foods and Friends, a Washington food service similar to but larger than Moveable Feast. He founded the National Education Association's Health Information Network addressing AIDS, breast cancer and other issues.

Earlier in his career, he studied briefly for the Presbyterian ministry, marched in the Selma-Montgomery 1965 civil rights march led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and was the Georgia director and then-Southern regional director of the NEA.

Williams expects to use the Foods and Friends experience to expand the Baltimore service, which operates largely in the city and in Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Moveable Feast's biggest fund-raiser of the year, Dining Out for Life, is Nov. 7, when 70 to 100 area restaurants will donate 20 percent of their proceeds. Some restaurants have pledged 50 percent. Last year, the event raised $30,000.

Williams is searching for a new food service headquarters in Mount Vernon. The nonprofit agency's crowded quarters are in the former Waverly Presbyterian Church, 3401 Old York Road.

Clients report that when they are off Feast food they miss the camaraderie with those who deliver their meals. Scores have died -- some receiving their last meals from Moveable Feast.

Karen Bellesky, a registered dietitian, plans meals and discusses cases with the head chef, William "Billy" Brown. "We have to worry about not only what they eat but when," she said.

The changing diets of people with AIDS can be demanding. Clients need different proportions, often more calories to make up for weight loss, or more protein or fat. The taste of medications is masked.

"This is not Meals on Wheels," Williams said.

But meals are not exotic. On a recent day, breakfast was a banana, juice, cereal and milk, lunch was pasta salad, and dinner was stir-fried vegetables and beef.

And cookies, from the Howard County women who volunteer to bake them every week.

The only complaint came from a Pratt Street eater who had written, "I am praying that I soon become well enough to again postpone this service." Meanwhile, he said, "There are never enough cookies."

Pub Date: 9/26/96

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