“The beauty of the event is that people can decide where they want to dine at any number of restaurants, which span the most affordable to the high-end, from pizza to some of Toronto’s best restaurants,” says David T Currah, director of development and communications at Fife House Foundation.
Fife House is just one of many HIV/AIDS organizations benefiting from A Taste for Life — a cross-country event that sees restaurants in 23 communities donating a portion of their profits to local HIV/AIDS initiatives. Held on April 22, participating restaurants across Toronto include The 519’s lauded Fabernak, Luma at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Queen West institution Queen Mother Café, and many others.
Currah says the event is crucial for funding operations at Fife House, Canada’s largest provider of affordable housing for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“A Taste For Life is Fife House’s largest annual event and has raised almost $1 million since 2001, our first year. With only about five percent of the money going to costs, it provides us with much needed funds that support a variety of needs,” says Currah. “It partially funds one of our homeless outreach workers and the more than 6,000 meals that were provided to residents last year. As well, items such as beds, bedding and basic food can be provided to people moving from the streets into their first home.”
Currah adds that with the advent of effective antiretroviral treatments, the population of clients accessing Fife House is aging. Almost half are over 50, and with age comes more complex health issues and challenges to care, thereby underlining the importance of the event.
A Taste for Life is being held in communities from Thunder Bay to St John’s. In Newfoundland, profits from the event benefit the Tommy Sexton Centre. Similar to Fife House, the Tommy Sexton Centre provides short-term emergency housing, affordable housing as well as life-skills training to people living with HIV/AIDS. The Tommy Sexton Centre, which is under the umbrella of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland & Labrador (ACNL), is named after the legendary comic who died of AIDS in 1993.
Gerard Yetman, executive director of ACNL, says people in Newfoundland and Labrador face unique boundaries with accessing services.
“Fundraising is very important for ACNL. Although we receive funding from both the federal and provincial governments, the funding is not sufficient to cover the cost of all programs provided to persons living with HIV, Hepatitis C and those at risk,” says Yetman. “ACNL is the only HIV-prevention program in Newfoundland and Labrador and we provide services to the entire province. Newfoundland is geographically very large and it is expensive to provide services across the province.”
Restaurants in St John’s participating in A Taste for Life include critically-acclaimed The Reluctant Chef, Oliver’s and The Sprout.