A nutrition program to encourage better health in people living with HIV will start in Melbourne in the second half of the year.

The Tuckerbag Meals project is a joint venture between the Royal District Nursing Service and the Victorian AIDS Council and will involve fortnightly food deliveries to around 20 clients from Hastings to Altona to improve the diets of people living with HIV on low incomes.

Tuckerbag Meal program coordinator Campbell Smith told the Star Observer a successful pilot program ran last August and the first official three-month program would start this year.

“The idea basically was, we don’t have the resources to develop an ongoing food delivery service around Melbourne so we wanted a program that was a short-term intervention to inspire people to get back into healthy cooking,” Smith said.

“What we were doing with the pilot was trying to prove whether the process of delivering food and recipes would actually encourage people to get into the habit for caring more for their nutrition and it does seem to suggest all the clients took to it with great enthusiasm.

“It exceeded our expectations.”

The pilot project was funded by a community grant from the Gay and Lesbian Organisation for Business Enterprise (GLOBE) and the first round of the Tuckerbag Meals program will be funded by fundraising from Oz Showbiz Cares theatre collections.

Smith said although the Positive Living Centre (PLC) in Prahran runs a pantry service, district nursing services noticed some HIV-positive clients, especially those from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds, had poor diets and little income to ensure they ate fresh and healthy food.

“One client, they went in and there was a single tin of soup in the house,” Smith said.

“We’ve had constant requests from people saying they’re well enough to get in, but not strong enough to carry food back home or they’re just not close to the PLC.”

The Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society’s recent Futures 6 research found more than 50 percent of people living with HIV in Australia, who were not working, live below the poverty line and struggle to pay for food.

“It is known good nutrition is an important part of living well with HIV,” Smith said. “We need people to be eating better to maintain their overall health.”

Smith said Tuckerbag Meals volunteers have devised recipes for clients to follow which include the fresh ingredients delivered.

Chilled meat and dairy items won’t be included in the deliveries because of food safety reasons.

The project is funded for 2011, and further funding will be sought to keep the program running.

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