Project Open Hand

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For other uses, see Open hand.

Project Open Hand is a volunteer agency maintained and operated non-profit organization offering hot meals, grocery service, and nutrition education to those who qualify in both San Francisco and Alameda Counties. Beneficiaries of the project include men and women infected with HIV/AIDS, critically ill or homebound individuals, as well as people over the age of 60 years-old in need of meal service or nutritional education.

By 2011, Project Open Hand provided 2,600 meals a day to AIDS patients and the elderly.[1] The agency is funded by $5.6 millions in government and private donations.[1]


Project Open Hand was created in 1985 by Ruth Brinker,[1] a retired grandmother who recognized the relatively small number of social services for those infected with HIV/AIDS.[2] She noticed the effects of malnutrition on the terminally ill from watching a number of her friends struggle to get proper nourishment during their illness. After noticing a growing problem, the idea for delivering hot meals to them was born, and a positive impact was soon to follow. Ruth began by delivering meals to 7 of people living with AIDS, and from there, the word quickly spread.

In 1990, the Food Bank Program at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (which, at that time, was distributing bags of staple groceries to 600 low-income people with AIDS per week) was merged into Project Open Hand. The merger created a single organization that was more efficient than having two separate programs, and which delivered hot meals as well as groceries.

Project Open Hand serve 1,200 meals to individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses, 1,400 lunches in their Senior Lunch Program, and over 300 bags of groceries are distributed between their East Bay and San Francisco locations every day of the year.

Project Open Hand receives the two thirds of its funding through private donations, with one third coming from governmental agencies. There is also a direct donation from the United Way. Food service operations, such as the preparation of hot meals, bagging of groceries, and delivery of food to those in need are all conducted by the 100 daily volunteers in combination with the full and part-time staff of 120 people. Recent Controversial Changes= Starting June 1st 2014 new guidelines went into effect affecting eligibility of PWA's, HIV/AIDS, and Hep C clients. There is a new two-page application procedure which requires the client's physician to fill out current lab data, severe symptoms, medical history, etc. Some care providers find this system very cumbersome. More clients are falling through the cracks as POH tries to expand its service demographic to include cancer patients, diabetics, the elderly, etc. Some long time supporters of POH are feeling 'pushed out' by these new regulations. A few clients have moved over to Meal On Wheels because they and their doctors are fed up with the POH run around.


  1. ^ a b c Slotnik, Daniel S. (2011-08-18). "Ruth Brinker, Who Gave AIDS Patients Meals, Is Dead at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-01. 
  2. ^ Kane, Will (2011-08-14). "Ruth Brinker, Project Open Hand founder, dies". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-09-01. 

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