With current global financial situation and economic changes, many community services have started to feel the strain of increased need on their resources. In Houston, AIDS Foundation Houston’s Stone Soup Food Assistance Program has recently seen a more than 40 percent increase in the need of this very specialized service.
Though additional sources for funding are currently being investigated and pursued, funding for Stone Soup for 2009 will not support the 40 percent increase in requests by Houstonians in need, according to Kelly A. McCann, chief executive officer for AFH. McCann estimates that it will take an additional $25,000 per month to meet current demand.
“With a recent increase in the number of clients requesting assistance from Stone Soup, we have reviewed our resources and realized we had to make a change to the schedule and frequency of this service to ensure our resources were available for the entire year,” said McCann.
Beginning April 16, AFH closed enrollment to new clients or those attempting to renew their Stone Soup card after receiving 12 months of service and reduced food program access to existing clients from once per month to every other month.
Stone Soup clients were informed of these changes in advance, and each person was provided with information on 10 other area food banks (most affiliated with churches) where they could receive service.
“We hope our HIV/AIDS community will understand and can work with us to get through this together,” McCann said. “Please know we will resume normal operations as soon as we are able.”
In June, local HIV/AIDS activist, Ed Barnes, addressed the change to Stone Soup’s Assistance Program in a widely distributed e-mail titled “Stone Soup Apparently in Trouble. Need funding and food. Help!”
“It’s clear to me now that Stone Soup is not in financial trouble,” Barnes later said, after correspondence with McCann. “However, they have had to provide food to more clients due to the escalating nature of HIV epidemic in Harris County alone.
“I just want to alert the entire community that food banks overall in Harris County are in trouble due to the current economic situation, but I worry especially about Stone Soup,” Barnes said.
Both McCann and Barnes urge individuals willing to donate to AFH’s Stone Soup program may do so by logging on to AIDShelp.org. Cash donations are preferred over food donations due to the complexity of preparing nutritionally rich food boxes, McCann said. One donation of $30 can provide almost a month’s worth of food to a client in need. –by Nancy Ford