HistoryIn 1992, Bill Fitzpatrick died of AIDS in Seattle, WA, where he was part of a grassroots organization that provided free nutritious meals to people with HIV and AIDS. His mother Sara Metcalf, who lived in San Juan, wanted to honor her son’s memory by ensuring that no one with HIV/AIDS in Puerto Rico ever had to deal with hunger and malnutrition as well as illness. Assisted by members of the Newcomer’s Club of PR and local friends, she founded Bill’s Kitchen in 1993. The first cooks were island grandmothers and other locals from the mainland who brought the comfort of traditional Spanish and American food to people too sick and hungry to feed themselves.They prepared the meals in their homes and distributed them from a carport. They started with eight clients. Today Bill’s Kitchen serves over 800 people a year, including some clients’ dependent children. And, although our food is prepared in a professional kitchen and meets the highest standards for medical nutrition therapy, it is still prepared with love, served with a generous heart, and delivered with a warm smile.
TodayBill’s Kitchen provides direct services to more than 800 people throughout 42 municipalities—all free of charge. Our service area comprises more than 50% of the population of Puerto Rico, including those areas with the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the island. We operate three centers located in San Juan, Bayamón (from which we serve several other municipalities located west of San Juan), and Fajardo (from which we reach the eastern area of the island).Each month, about 200 volunteers participate in activities such as cooking meals, packing and distributing food, performing administrative work, and supporting fundraising activities. We also have many short-term corporate and service-learning volunteers, as well as interns from local universities and culinary schools.Bill’s Kitchen is the only program in Puerto Rico providing free food and nutritional counseling to individuals with HIV/AIDS. We provide freshly prepared, medically appropriate, appetizing meals, modified as necessary to meet individual dietary restrictions and specific nutritional needs of the men, women, and children we serve.
Leading the WayBill’s Kitchen is recognized internationally as an innovator in Medical Nutritional Therapy for persons living with HIV/AIDS. Serving clients in remote locations, many of whom cannot be reached for daily food delivery like those in an urban center, we began to provide both freezers for food storage and microwave ovens for food preparation. This innovative approach ensures the frozen meals are properly stored and consumed within 14 days of preparation. Frozen meals have since become a standard of AIDS nutrition programs throughout the U.S. Executive Director Sandy Torres Rivera has served on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) since 2009. Her work on PACHA has helped influence White House policy on AIDS and her tireless advocacy in Puerto Rico has led to many policy changes on a local level.Bill’s Kitchen was an early member of AIDS Nutrition Services Alliance (ANSA), where Ms. Torres Rivera served on the board from 1997–2007.We collaborate with the emergency food programs and soup kitchens in our service area that serve the general population. Through them, we identify potential clients. We provide these food programs with the opportunity to host HIV nutrition and food safety workshops conducted by Bill’s Kitchen dietitians regarding the nutritional needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS.