- January 22, 2017
The days when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence are long gone. Today, many of the clients who come to Whitman-Walker Health are living with HIV but are struggling with secondary diseases such as hypertension or diabetes. Many of them find their way to registered dietitian Agata Williams, one of Food & Friends’ most valued partners at Whitman-Walker.
Through nutrition counseling and medical nutrition therapy, her job is to help clients address chronic illnesses like diabetes and improve their overall health by making changes to their diets. That may mean reducing salt intake for those with hypertension, or reducing refined sugar and carbs for those with diabetes.
Through a partnership between Whitman-Walker and Food & Friends, she refers eligible clients to Food & Friends’ for home-delivered meals or groceries that meet their nutritional needs.
Clients who meet the requirements become part of both the Whitman-Walker and Food & Friends families. While Food & Friends provides nutritious meals, Williams follows up to make sure her clients are eating and enjoying the meals. “Follow up is critical when you’re hoping for medical outcomes,” she notes.
Those who receive meals from Food & Friends tend to do better than those who don’t, she points out, adding that they are typically healthier and have more energy. “If they had issues with losing weight, they are gaining weight — or at least their nutritional status isn’t getting worse,” she adds.
“When Food & Friends and Whitman-Walker intervene,” Williams said, “our clients have access to better quality food.” In other words, “It’s the difference between eating soup from a can and eating homemade chicken soup prepared from scratch by Food & Friends.”
After being introduced to the way Food & Friends plans and prepares meals, clients eat better — even if the service ends, she says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if my clients carry this knowledge with them for the rest of their lives,” said Williams.
Praising Food & Friends’ commitment to responding to the community’s changing needs, Williams said: “If you want to stay relevant it’s critical to change with the times. It’s also important to look ahead at trends, at what’s coming. What’s needed today is important, but what is needed three or five or 10 years from now is very important. Food & Friends has always been good at that.”