Mama's Kitchen founder, Laurie Leonard

Mama’s Kitchen was established in 1990 by a San Diego caregiver who was deeply concerned about her neighbors affected by the AIDS epidemic. Over time, she formed a group of volunteers to cook and deliver free meals to individuals who were unable to shop for groceries or cook for themselves due to the debilitating effects of AIDS. At the height of the epidemic, when even some hospitals were turning AIDS patients away, our volunteers came together to combat the stigma and ensure that those critically ill were receiving one of their most basic rights – nutritious food. In 1999, we expanded to serve clients’ dependent children when our delivery volunteers realized that many critically ill parents were sharing their much-needed nutrition with their children, who didn’t have enough to eat. Over the years, we have used our experience with AIDS nutrition to expand our Home-Delivered Meal Service to other critically ill populations.

As our organization has grown, Mama’s Kitchen has constantly evolved. In 2004, we opened Mama’s Pantry, a food pantry for low-income HIV+ residents. In 2006, we expanded our meal delivery to include those affected by cancer. In 2018, we began home-delivering meals to clients with type 2 diabetes and congestive heart failure. On September 30th, 2019, we celebrated the delivery of our nine millionth meal.

In March 2020, Mama’s Kitchen began responding to a significant increase in demand in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By May 2020, we experienced a 63% increase in demand for our Home-Delivered Meal Service, delivering to 707 clients per delivery day. In August 2020, we expanded our mission scope again and began serving individuals with chronic kidney disease. In September 2020, we celebrated Mama’s Kitchen’s 30th anniversary. On March 31, 2021, we celebrated the delivery of our 10 millionth meal.

ChickenSoupBillboardBeyond receiving medically tailored meals, our clients receive one-on-one nutrition counseling. We strive to provide clients with both the food and the knowledge they need for their best possible health outcomes. In addition to these long-term services, we provide Emergency Food Assistance to HIV+ San Diego residents experiencing a sudden need for groceries. Each Emergency Food Assistance grocery bag provides the equivalent of 21 meals.

During three decades of service to the community, we have never turned away an eligible client, and have never charged a fee for our service.