HIV/AIDS patients facing nutrition assistance cuts 

click to enlarge Feeding efforts: Project Open Hand  cook Janice Londerville cooks soup in the kitchen of their Polk Street location. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • mike Koozmin/the s.f. examiner
  • Feeding efforts: Project Open Hand cook Janice Londerville cooks soup in the kitchen of their Polk Street location.

A nonprofit helping to feed the seriously ill and those living with HIV/AIDS will make some major cuts in the coming months to bridge a financial gap that organization leaders say will not affect service.

Project Open Hand — which provides home-delivered meals and groceries, and nutrition counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS — announced a reduction in its operating budget to curb escalating costs. The organization is estimating a $728,000 deficit in a $9.8 million budget.

One way it hopes to trim costs is by changing services for some clients. People with HIV/AIDS who can still cook for themselves will have to choose between two services previously provided to all patients: home-delivered meals or transportation to and from the organization’s grocery center.

Kevin Winge, executive director of Project Open Hand, said the difficult cuts will better position the organization for the future.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “These are people’s jobs, and services to our community. But if we are proactive, it will ensure that Open Hand is here as long as we need it.”

Project Open Hand has increased its meal production by 10 percent in the past year because of an increase in client needs. The organization said though increases in clients contributed to the funding deficit, no client will be turned away.

The changes to service could save the organization about $300,000. Another $200,000 in savings will come from staff cuts, Winge said.

Project Open Hand serves more than 800,000 meals annually to roughly 8,000 clients. Of those clients, 5,000 visit the organization’s grocery center.

Winge, a longtime figure in the HIV/AIDS nonprofit community, has been at his post for just under three months, which he said makes the decision for cuts even more difficult.

The HIV program will take the largest hit, Winge said, but it’s not the only one. Project Open Hand’s peanut butter production will cease operation by June 30, also in an effort to save money. Winge said he couldn’t justify making staff cuts and saving a program that was not making the organization money.

In a statement, Project Open Hand board President Ed Lamberger said the organization is exploring a number of changes.

“We would never look to balance our budget by programmatic changes alone,” Lamberger said.

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