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Going Hungry: Vulnerable Londoners With HIV are Often Left Unable to feed Themselves or Their Families

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A good diet is important for everyone but for people living with HIV it is vital to meet the body's increased nutritional needs whilst fighting infection. A proper diet provides the essential nutrients to rebuild the immune system, replaces lost body mass and ensures correct absorption and effective use of medication.

HIV is the UK's fastest growing serious health condition, with around 86,500 people living with HIV in 2009; 40% of whom (34,600) live in London. It is estimated that 15% of people living with HIV in London and their families are living in extreme poverty and for some this is putting their health at risk.

The Food Chain delivers meals, groceries and nutritional support to people affected by HIV and struggling to access good food in London. To help tackle this problem, on Friday 30 March we held The Spring Office Picnic, our annual fundraising event to help increase awareness of the issue of malnutrition amongst people living with HIV and raise money to support our efforts to combat this growing concern. The idea of The Spring Office Picnic is to encourage people to share a picnic at work and donate £3.60, the money they would usually spend on lunch, to The Food Chain. £3.60 is the cost of a single hot meal delivery to a HIV patient in London.

We started off the days' events with a picnic breakfast, joined by The London Titans football team, a London-based gay-friendly football club. Celebrity chefs, Michael Caines (two star Michelin chef who regularly appears on BBC's Masterchef), Emma Crowhurst (BBC Food and Drink and Ready Steady Cook), Franck Pontais (Ready Steady Cook and Iron Chef), Alex Mackay (BBC Ready Steady Cook and past sous chef to Raymond Blanc) and charity patron Allegra McEvedy (Guardian columnist and restaurant entrepreneur) provided recipes for the event.

Since beginning work in 1988 we have helped many of the capital's most vulnerable people, last year we delivered our half a millionth meal on Christmas Day and over the last four years we have seen a 550% surge in demand for our emergency hampers. In 2010, 25% of those accessing our food services had a household food budget of less than £20 per week and over half of people receiving our emergency hampers in 2010 had no income at all. Many of the parents who are referred to The Food Chain for assistance are sacrificing their own health to feed their children.

Donations help us keep up with this increased demand and provide nutritional support to even more people living with HIV. It's still possible to support us by texting 'MEAL12 £5' to 70070 to donate £5. A coffee and cake in London can cost twice the amount of a meal provided by The Food Chain, so even small donations make a huge difference.

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