Food for thought

"Dining Out For Life," voted “Best Night to Dine Out” in last fall's Nashville Scene Readers Poll, will be held on Tuesday, Apr. 26 to support Nashville CARES. It serves as one of the major fundraisers for the local organization that is "instrumental in promoting and participating in comprehensive and compassionate responses to HIV/AIDS in Middle Tennessee."

Dining Out For Life," an annual fundraising event created in 1991, is now produced in over 55 cities throughout the United States and Canada. More than 3,500 restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds from this night of dining to the licensed agency in their city. Nearly $4 million dollars a year is raised to support the missions of agencies throughout North America.

Nashville CARES is in its ninth year of holding "Dining Out For Life": the organization raised $90,000 in 2010, with 64 area restaurants donating a portion of their profits for local HIV/AIDS support services and prevention education.

Kay West and Bob Deal, co-chairs for “Dining Out for Life," are both very aware of how important Nashville CARES and DOFL are for Middle Tennessee.

West tells the story about living in New York City in 1981 where she had many gay friends. On her trip home from a weekend visit with some of these friends, West read a newspaper article about this unknown disease that seemed to be concentrated among gay men. During the first years of the disease, before research and information became available, she lost many friends to HIV and AIDS.

Deal has also seen a number of friends affected by the disease, and that drives his work for this important cause. He praises Nashville CARES for their outreach efforts in the community.

“It's the only facility of its kind to not only promote AIDS awareness and education, but to provide food and services for HIV positive patients as well," Deal says. (We) do not provide medical care; however, we do provide counseling, rehab programs transportation, and nutritional support. DOFL is a show of public support for members of our community who are HIV-positive. This event helps to fund the Food Bank and box lunches that provide nutritious food for our clients.”

Approximately sixty restaurants are participating in the event this year. West points out that, with one or two exceptions, all participants are locally owned, independent restaurants and agree to donate anywhere from 30-100% of their sales. The top three restaurants that gave the most in donations last year were Suzy Wong's House of Yum ($7,000), Kalamata's ($4,265) and Germantown Cafe ($3,063).

Each restaurant is assigned a host or team of hosts by the event committee. These hosts then invite and encourage their friends and contacts to visit the participating restaurants on the special night.

West considers this a perfect opportunity to blend great food and philanthrophy: “Everyone eats out, why not do it on a night that makes an investment in Nashville CARES?”

To find out the specific restaurants participating in DOFL, please visit the Nashville CARES website at

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