The History of Open Hand

When Michael Edwards-Pruitt founded Project Open Hand in 1988, he and a few of his neighbors cooked meals for 14 friends with HIV/AIDS who were too sick to cook for themselves. It was truly an act of love, and very much a “project” – a small, grassroots group committed to making a difference, however small, in the community.

Who could have ever imagined that 25 years later, Open Hand would prepare and deliver nearly 4,500 meals every day, employ a full-time staff, provide nutrition education from licensed dietitians, and be consistently recognized as one of the most innovative, visionary and fiscally responsible nonprofit organizations in the country?

The following timeline will give you an indication of just how much Open Hand has evolved through the years.


In February, Open Hand officially opened the doors of our newly expanded campus! With all Open Hand and Good Measure Meals' employees now under one roof, we are poised to leverage the many exciting opportunities our new facility presents.  From increased capacity to serve the every-growing needs of metropolitan Atlanta to classroom space that will enable us to extend our nutrition education programs to the greater community, and provide additional job training for our culinary volunteers who are honing their skills in hopes of securing gainful employment in the food service industry, we are already experiencing a renewed synergy and an increased level of efficiency.


Construction began on Open Hand's expanded campus, including the addition of a 17,000 square foot Armour Drive facility that sits adjacent to Open Hand's current building on Ottley Drive. The buildings will be connected by a bridge that will facilitate the transporting of food from the renovated kitchen to the new packing and storage areas. The expanded campus will also enable Open Hand to offer an enhanced volunteer experience, provide opportunities to implement additional nutrition education programs, and allow for additional growth in our successful social enterprise venture, Good Measure Meals.


A natural extension of our mission, Open Hand increased focus on outreach to youth and families, developing our first-ever children’s menu and serving over 70,000 healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to an average of 970 at-risk children each day during a summer program in the metro Atlanta area.

Party in the Kitchen 2012 raises a record amount -- nearly $250,000 -- to support Open Hand's community nutrition programs.

In 2012, clients reported improvements in outcomes directly or indirectly resulting from their participation in Open Hand’s Prepared Meals program. 67% of clients reported that the meals helped them to maintain a healthy weight, compared to 63.4% in 2011; 46% reported that the meals helped to lower stress, compared to 38% in 2011; and 39% reported increased energy levels vs. 32% in 2011.


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, alongside with veteran Open Hand volunteer Barbara Antley, delivers Open Hand's 20 millionth meal. “Metropolitan Atlanta now has 20 million reasons to thank Open Hand and its thousands of volunteers for their many contributions to our city,” said Mayor Reed. The Mayor also presented a Phoenix Award, the city’s highest honor, to the volunteers at Open Hand’s kitchen and thanked them for their years of dedication and service to the community.

Open Hand launches the grant-funded Senior Market Basket Program, which is administered by Open Hand Registered Dietitians. The program is an innovative solution to reduce food insecurity, increase intake of healthy foods, and increase nutrition knowledge in high-risk older adults in the Atlanta area. Open Hand volunteers deliver program participants weekly market baskets which include fresh fruit and vegetables, along with nutrition education materials and healthy recipes.

Party in the Kitchen 2011, featuring the finest chefs from some of Atlanta's best restaurants, raises nearly $215,000.


To accommodate Open Hand’s continued growth, and to provide temporary office space for staff that will be displaced during construction of our expanded campus, the organization signed a lease for office space at 170-A Ottley Drive, immediately adjacent to Open Hand’s existing 176 Ottley Drive facility.

Renowned Chef Kevin Rathbun lends his talents to Open Hand as co-chair of our signature fundraising event, Party in the Kitchen, and helps raise over $150,000 in support of Open Hand community nutrition programs.


Open Hand develops a system for tracking and documenting client outcomes, which will ultimately enable us to share critical data with primary care providers and case management partners – greatly enhancing our collective ability to provide better care to our clients.

Open Hand and Good Measure Meals collaborate on a landmark diabetes prevention and management study with the City of Smyrna, and collaborates with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) to develop and support a senior center healthy gardening initiative.

Open Hand’s organizational strength was acknowledged by the one of the largest community foundations in the country – The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta – as they selected Open Hand as recipient of the prestigious 2009 Managing for Excellence Award.


Open Hand’s social enterprise, Good Measure Meals, further extends our reach and mission across a broader socio-economic spectrum by dramatically increasing the number of distribution points throughout north Georgia.

Open Hand lays the groundwork for its enhanced meal distribution model, which not only makes home-delivery schedules more convenient for our clients, but generates significant annual cost savings.

Open Hand’s 5th Annual Party in the Kitchen kicks off yearlong commemoration of 20th anniversary. The event spans two facilities, includes celebrity chefs, a silent auction and a first-ever $30,000 “Dream Box Raffle.”

Dining Out for Life, in its 15th year, raises over $210,000 for Open Hand with the help of the Atlanta restaurant community.

13,000,000th meal is served.

Open Hand is named beneficiary of the 2008 11-Alive Community Service Awards, to be held in April 2008.

Entered into a partnership with the American Diabetes Association, strengthing their value as a stakeholder in enabling us to better achieve our tandem purpose of supporting individuals with or at risk for diabetes, and helping them gain access to appropriate care.

Completed expansion of the Open Hand kitchen to support additional food production and providing additional room for nearly double the previous cooling and freezing capacity.

Project Open Hand becomes Open Hand, and a new brand identity is launched in order to better communicate the organization’s expanded mission and strategic vision.

Officially launched Comprehensive Nutrition Care (CNC) after trials validating the program with outcomes from clinical studies funded by ALTRIA and the MAC AIDS Fund.

Began providing meals for SarahCare Adult Day Care and Covenant House Georgia.

The front office renovation is completed, providing a more welcoming entrance as well as a new boardroom, donor and client recognition displays.

Launched a second outcomes-based HIV\AIDS nutrition study funded by ALTRIA, including partnership with Emory University to further development of our Comprehensive Nutrition Care program.

10,000,000th meal is served.

Beneficiary of a Georgia Tech engineering study program to maximize the efficiency of our meal distribution model.

Project Open Hand launches Good Measure Meals, a social entrepreneurship which has become a major success -- introducing a primary revenue source to support the organization.

Provided breakfast, lunch and dinner for approximately 300 Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Entered into agreement with the new Gateway 24/7 Center to operate the TACK program on site, managing the kitchen and providing meal service for Gateway residents.  The kitchen was also the food preparation lab for TACK students who assisted with preparation of resident meals.

Received initial grant from ALTRIA to begin a clinical study at Emory University to measure the impact of Project Open Hand's Comprehensive Nutrition Care program.

Created a Nutrition Services department, led by noted dietitian Charlotte Hayes, with aggressive plans to further enhance Project Open Hand's prevention-based nutrition programs.

Project Open Hand formed the Fulton County Senior Collaborative in conjunction with Visiting Nurses Health System and Senior Citizen Services to manage eight senior centers in Central Fulton County under contract with the Fulton County Office of Aging.

The inaugural Party in the Kitchen fundraising event.

6,000,000th meal served.

Emergency Nutrition Supplements Program was implemented at Grady Infectious Disease Program. This program provides meal replacement snacks to Grady IDP patients who may have to wait several hours for their appointments.

Introduced an innovative touch-screen volunteer sign-in feature allowing both volunteers and employees to more accurately track service hours with Open Hand. This resulted in receiving the Techbridge Award for Technology in 2002.


Once again, client eligibility requirements are revised to keep pace with the ever-changing AIDS epidemic.

Project Open Hand accepts a three-month “catering contract” providing fresh, nutritious meals to Fulton County seniors.

Project Open Hand branches out to include other populations in need – person with non-HIV related critical illnesses, the disabled, and the homebound elderly. 


Meal number 3,000,000 is served.

The Atlanta Collaborative Kitchen is launched (with the Food Bank) to fight hunger, disease and unemployment by reclaiming fresh foods while training individuals for food service employment. Presently over thirty-five tons of nutritious foods have been prepared and redistributed.

In response to the changing face of AIDS, Project Open Hand adds dependent hildren’smeals and a grocery pantry program.

“Project Open Hand Remembers” brings 228 panels from the Names Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt to Piedmont Park for Pride Weekend.

Meal number 2,000,000 is served.

Working with a team of nutritionists and dietitians, Project Open Hand establishes its first 28-day menu rotation.

Project Open Hand works its way through a natural disaster, Hurricane Opal. The biggest obstacle – No Power! Meals are cooked on one gas burner and packaged by flashlight. All meals are delivered on time and without interruption.

Project Open Hand moves to its new home in the Armour-Ottley Industrial Park of Atlanta.


With increased knowledge of client needs, Project Open Hand revises its eligibility requirements extensively to serve those with an AIDS diagnosis. (Originally, anyone who had been diagnosed as HIV-positive was eligible.)

The first Dining Out for Life unites fifty local restaurants and serves up a profit of $30,000 [2000 = $105,000].

New heat-sealed, microwaveable, freezable food containers provide clients with air tight, sanitary meals ready to heat and eat when ever they are.

Friend for Life, Project Open Hand’s monthly giving program, is established.

Part-time Atlanta resident Elton John volunteers a day to personally deliver meals to Project Open Hand clients. 

Project Open Hand begins providing donated meals to a small group of people struggling with HIV/AIDS who had been refused services elsewhere. Blessed with its name by Ruth Brinker, the founder of the original organization of the same name in San Francisco, Project Open Hand began to have an immediate impact on the community.