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This year’s Dining Out For Life looks different. Here’s what to know

Southern Kitchen

Up until 2019, about 300,000 diners in the United States and Canada would come together at more than 2,000 restaurants on a single day in April to eat good food with friends and raise money for people living with HIV/AIDS. 

That’s just not possible this year, and it certainly wasn’t last year. For two years, the typical Dining Out For Life nationwide event  – a major fundraiser for local HIV/AIDS  organizations that typically would raise about $4.5 million – has been torn asunder by this pandemic.  

Locally, our Dining Out For Life event, hosted by our local AIDS/HIV organization PCAF, could count on raising around $50,000 from more than 50 participating restaurants. 

The organization, like so many others, has been pushed into retooling the entire event. It won’t look the same this year. However, diners can still participate the entire month of April. Here’s how and where.


PCAF’s leaders didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask local restaurants –  that already are struggling – to contribute a slice of ticket sales, explained Wilmer Galindo, Development Coordinator with PCAF. Participating restaurants in a typical year would donate between 25 and 100 percent of ticket sales for the one-day dining event. 

It also wasn’t safe to encourage diners to gather in large groups to celebrate the way a typical DOFL event would happen, so that won’t happen this year, either, explained Jill Rose,  Development and Communications Director for PCAF. 

PCAF came up with a number of ways for restaurants to participate, as well as safe ways for diners to contribute. 

For starters, instead of donating a portion of ticket sales, participating restaurants will donate their recipes to PCAF. The organization will take those recipes and collect them into a cookbook, a project Galindo currently is working on. 

Here are details on that cookbook and other ways diners can help PCAF raise funds this year. 

COOKBOOK: Donations of $100 or more will bring a rich dividend –  that PCAF cookbook composed of recipes from local chefs. The cookbook will be published later this year. 

CLASSES: Cooking classes are on the horizon, too. Watch for information about those at PCAF’s website. 

MONTH-LONG DINING SUPPORT: PCAF asks that diners grab take-out at participating restaurants for the entire month of April (or safely dine-in while following current pandemic restrictions). This year’s restaurant list is shorter and consists only of restaurants that previously have participated. It didn’t feel right, PCAF organizers said, to recruit new restaurants. Find the list of participating restaurants here: https://www.diningoutforlife.com/city/southsound/#restaurants

INFORMATIONAL CAMPAIGN AND VIRTUAL DONATIONS: “Restaurants will distribute postcards that go into takeout boxes, or be available in the restaurant,” said Rose. Diners can scan the QR codes on those postcards for more information about PCAF and for ways to donate to the cause. Join with me in donating here. Your gift will help support programs offered by PCAF. 

RESTAURANT AMBASSADORS: PCAF typically would train ambassadors to greet diners inside restaurants on the annual DOFL event. Instead this year, ambassadors will be virtual advocates who will post restaurant photos and information that can be shared and boosted on social media. See one of those posts? Give it a share and help spread the word.


Things don’t look the same for Gloria Martin as they did a year ago. Her ticket sales are down 50 percent at her Southern Kitchen restaurant, in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Expenses are not helping. Typically, she would spend about $4 a week in gloves. That amount has skyrocketed to $200 or more a week. Prices for gloves have spiked and her staff are using more of them, per health department pandemic standards.

She’s hanging in there and so is Southern Kitchen, but it’s not business as usual at her restaurant known for its fried chicken, tender brisket, chicken fried steak, hush puppies, fried green tomatoes and other excellent southern classics

She said even though Dining Out For Life will look different this year, she’s happy to do her part in promoting the cause and PCAF’s work. 

Martin has been participating in Dining Out For Life for 20-plus years. She doesn’t remember the year she signed up, but she remembers the reasons why she did. 

“Obviously, it’s really hurt our community,” she said of HIV and AIDS disproportionately affecting the Black community. Additionally, a long-ago Southern Kitchen employee was HIV positive. “Nobody knew enough about it. It’s like coronavirus right now. People did not know enough about it and people were not – they just weren’t compassionate about it enough. I didn’t want our staff to feel we were like that, so I signed up for it.” She’s been participating ever since. 

“The employee, he died,” she said. “It was very hard when he died. People back then were more paranoid. They were so worried they would get it from, or through touch, but as a community we started educating and also what people maybe didn’t realize is that we’re a community gathering palace. People come here to gather and talk. We’re important in the community. We’ve always had the (PCAF) ambassadors here. They would spend the whole day with us educating and talking about HIV (during DOFL).”

This year, she’ll shift with the program’s focus and distribute written materials and encourage donations. 

Jan Z. Parker of Jan Parker Cookery operates a pop-up restaurant at the Proctor Farmers Market on Saturdays. Or as she describes it, “I build my kitchen from scratch basically every weekend.” 

She had signed up to become involved in Dining Out For Life before the pandemic. “When I met Wilmer, we were going to do a booth at the Farmers Market,” she said. Those plans shifted this year.

This year, she’ll be offering a special menu designed for the month-long PCAF event. “People can go to my website at janparkercookery.com. There will be a special menu for the PCAF event,” she said. “People can pick their menu item, pick the time of day for pickup, and if they want to pick up curbside, we can do that.”  Parker added, “PCAF will provide me with the flyers and they’re going to go in every bag that goes out to help PCAF raise money.” She’ll also have signage at her booth at the Proctor Farmers Market every Saturday to help spread the message of programming provided by PCAF for those living with HIV/AIDS. 

She added, “PCAF makes it easy to help them. We have to move in small ways and create a community that’s healthy, so we can be part of the revolution of changing things, which is why working with PCAF is such a great thing.” 


When: Entire month of April 

 Dining out For Life South Sound website: https://www.diningoutforlife.com/city/southsound/

(find participating restaurants at bottom of page) 

PCAF: https://www.pcaf-wa.org/