London HIV charity Food Chain has received a £1 million sponsorship from the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The charity, now in its 22nd year, provides vital support to HIV-positive people who are too ill to feed themselves properly.
Manager Andrew Davies told PinkNews.co.uk that the donation – the largest the charity has ever received – would fund a new three-year strategy for the charity and help it to reach more people.
Food Chain is based on an American charity called Gods Love We Deliver, which provided struggling HIV-positive people with food during the height of AIDS fear in the 1980s.
Its volunteers borrow kitchens around London when not in use, plan meals, buy ingredients, cook and deliver food.
Currently, service users can receive a hot Sunday meal, weekly grocery deliveries if they are house-bound and emergency food hampers.
The charity hopes to use the £1 million donation to widen its services and consult dietitians to cater to individual cases. It also plans to set up communal eating groups for isolated people and hold nutrition and cooking training.
Mr Davies said: “Good nutrition is essential for anyone, but for those living with HIV, who may have suppressed immune systems, it’s vital.
“With the new funding, we hope to feed more people, more often.”
Food Chain has 900 volunteers across London and a “handful” of office staff – although it announced three redundancies in December.
Mr Davies said: “These are tough financial times but it’s our time to shine because the number of people who need our service has skyrocketed in the last few years.
“In the last four years, we’ve seen a 500 per cent increase in demand for our emergency food hampers.
“EJAF and a few other sponsors have seen what we do and have decided to support it.”
The number of HIV-positive people in the UK is expected to reach 100,000 next year and Mr Davies said that changes in the demographic of HIV sufferers had changed enormously.
“Gay men are still very badly affected [by HIV],” he said, “but there are now a lot more families, especially African and Caribbean families and those who may have immigration issues.
Food Chain plans to set up communal eating groups, which it believes will benefit HIV-positive gay men in particular.
Mr Davies said: “We’ve discovered that for many people, the person delivering the food is the only person they see all week.
“Isolation is a real problem, especially among older gay men who lost many friends in the days before treatment was available. They have a very limited support network.
“So we’re looking to set up communal eating projects in the next few years.”
He added: “We’ve always received a huge amount of support from the gay community, really because of the history of HIV. So I’d like to say thank you to PinkNews.co.uk readers.”