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Inside the Icon: Mama's Kitchen

Celebrating 25 years of providing nutrition to San Diegans battling AIDS and cancer




Photo by Sean Capshaw

Named After Mom

Mama’s Kitchen was established in 1990 by Laurie Leonard, who enlisted volunteers to help prepare and deliver free lunches and dinners from a church basement to San Diegans suffering from AIDS. Having lost her brother to the disease, Laurie chose to honor her mother my naming the agency “Mama’s Kitchen.”

25 Years Later

In the early years, dedicated volunteers often wrote personal checks to cover the cost of food and operations. Today, Mama’s Kitchen provides three meals a day, seven days a week, free of charge. In their 25 years, they’ve never turned away anyone who qualified for their services.

Food is Medicine

When good nutrition deteriorates, recovery from a critical illness is much harder. The food that Mama’s Kitchen provides helps their clients maintain essential weight, strengthen their immune systems, metabolize medications, minimize side effects, and return to independent living whenever possible. 

Food is Love

Each week, volunteers prepare approximately 7,350 meals and personally deliver them throughout San Diego County, providing nutrition and hope to those in need. Tens of thousands of critically ill people have been helped through their services.

They Feed Children, Too

By 1999, volunteers began noticing that many clients were sharing meals with their children to prevent them from going hungry, at the expense of their own nutrition. In response, Mama’s Kitchen created the Children’s Nutritional Health Program, which delivers meals to clients’ dependent children.

No Longer Just An AIDS Organization

In 2006, after recognizing a growing demand in San Diego, Mama’s Kitchen expanded services to include people battling all types of cancer. 

Their Heartbeat

Volunteers are the heart and soul of Mama’s Kitchen, bringing their mission to life. Over the years, 6,400 volunteers have donated 865,000 hours of service to the organization.

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