A program that provides what many say are life saving services for people living with HIV and AIDS has been around almost as long as the epidemic itself. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
HIV positive for 26 years and living on disability, James Rolkiewicz relies on food and nutrition services provided by The Momentum Project of Village Care New York to help supplement his diet.
"The situation we're in the city only gives us a limited amount of money on disability for our illnesses and stuff. So we come here and it helps us make ends meet gives us a chance to meet other people and talk and gather with friends and to raise our spirits," Rolkiewicz said.
For more than two decades, The Momentum Project has been providing weekly hot meals, and nutritious pantry bags for low income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS at churches throughout the city. And for this population, maintaining balanced nutrition is especially vital to survival.
"If you don't eat properly then no medication is going to work effectively because of problems with absorption and the fundamental needs of your body for decent food in order to maintain your immune system," said Momentum Project Nutritionist Edwin Krales.
Director of Food Services Shawn Thorne, a former sous chef at Windows on the World, works closely with dieticians to make sure clients are getting all the right nutrients.
"Everything is in proportion. Balanced meals, a lot of great proteins. Great vegetables, green leafy vegetables, lots of water," Thorne said.
Not only does the program provide meals, it also provides health and social services.
"I think people are coming here because they need the service. But it also gives them an opportunity in a safe environment to talk about their health, talk about some of the other issues, maybe housing issues, some of the more personal issues that I think we can support them and help achieve a little more stability," said Village Care of New York CEO Emma DeVito.
"This program has been a blessing. It turned me around, it's like family this program," said city resident Peter LaMarca.
The program alone feeds more than 1,000 people throughout the five boroughs each week. And the people running it say that statistic itself should be a strong indication of just how serious the HIV and AIDS epidemic continues to be in the city.
"Unfortunately today the media and others think it is a non issue. We know it isn't a non-issue. We know a lot of people that are living with HIV and AIDS that know about it and need the support and the services," DeVito said.
At The Momentum Project, the hope is that not only can a meal be sustenance for the body, but for the will to keep going as well.