New York’s GMHC & the Realities of Distributing Meals

Gay Men's Health Crisis
Hundreds of containers of shelf-stable Mandarin oranges await bagging by “GMHC on the Go” volunteers. Donna Aceto

From Adjusting to the realities of distributing meals to its clients during the coronavirus crisis, Gay Men’s Health Crisis on March 31 gathered 15 volunteers and staff members — working as volunteers — to prepare 1,040 bags of groceries, each containing 14 meals, that will be delivered to clients who in normal times either access the agency’s weekday lunch program or obtain food through its pantry.

The grocery bags included shelf-stable items as well as some fresh ingredients, as well.

The workers’ labors were lightened by donuts that former State Senator Tom Duane entrusted volunteer Bruce Pachter to bring by.

GMHC volunteers
Volunteers & staff volunteers. Donna Aceto

“The onset of COVID-19 temporarily suspended GMHC’s ability to provide congregate meals and on-site food pantry service, as our building operations are closed until further notice,” Kelsey Louie, the agency’s CEO said in a written statement. “Yet, this reality hasn’t changed our concern for our clients living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, or our commitment to stay connected and maintain some degree of stabilizing service. Presently, we offer support to our clients online, and through phone support and sessions.”

The phone and digital support GMHC provides include mental health and substance use counseling, wellness programming, and workforce development trainings.

Krishna Stone GMHC
GMHC staff member Krishna Stone (by Donna Aceto)

To continue its nutritional program since shuttering its doors several weeks ago, the agency developed a “GMHC on the Go” design to deliver meals to hundreds of clients. The March 31 meals bagging followed an earlier distribution event where clients were invited to visit the agency and pick up meals while observing appropriate social distancing. Going forward — until the agency is able to reopen its doors and resume its full services, the “On the Go” delivery model will be employed to get a biweekly supply of meals to clients who depend on them.

Explaining the shift to a delivery system, Louie said, “‘GMHC On the Go’ will ensure that our clients don’t have to choose between having a meal and risking their health.”

Reported by Paul Schindler for

Durell Knights GMHC
GMHC staff member Durell Knights.