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Caring Kitchen Project Serves Nutritious Meals to Cancer Clients

Monday, October 8, 2018

Since its inception just one year ago, the North Coast Opportunities (NCO) Caring Kitchen Project has provided over 2,500 meals to 38 individuals and families with a cancer diagnosis at a time when they are most in need of nutritious food and are least able to purchase and prepare it for themselves. The project engages teen volunteer chefs-in-training, offering them an opportunity to serve their community while they learn about the delicious benefits of healthy food, build leadership and work skills and discover their power to make a difference in the world. Adult volunteers contribute time mentoring teens in the kitchen, growing organic produce, calling clients to check in, and delivering meals directly to clients’ doors. Each delivered meal makes clients feel more connected, loved and cared for, things which are vital to health.

“We just love what the Caring Kitchen represents,” says Linda Nagel, a Caring Kitchen donor and volunteer. “My family loves being involved with the Caring Kitchen because it addresses a real community need with real community collaboration. The work that they’re doing with teens, with local food, and with healing meals for cancer patients is fantastic.”

Meals are prepared at a commercial kitchen in Willits each week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. With the leadership of Chef April Cunningham, the teen and adult volunteers work side by side prepping ingredients and creating meals for the clients. Seasonal organic produce from local gardens, school gardens, and farms such as Parducci Cellars Farm, are diced, sautéed, and blended into delicious entrées, hearty side dishes, soups, and healthy desserts. Then on Thursdays, a group of volunteers portions out the fully-cooked, chilled meals into to-go containers for the clients. The meals are packed into insulated Savings Bank delivery bags and are then loaded into volunteer delivery angels’ cars to go directly to the clients’ doorsteps free of charge.

“I’ve always loved to cook, so the Caring Kitchen is perfect for me. I have a great time with the other volunteers every week and I feel good about providing healthy meals to make things a little easier for members of our community who are dealing with illness,” says teen volunteer, Emmett Reilly.

“Your service causes a ray of light in my heart, and brightens my thoughts,” writes one Caring Kitchen client in a card to the volunteers. “I love you. I really appreciate this wonderful food and the love behind it each week. May the love you share return to you tenfold,” writes another client. Messages like these are shared on greeting cards back and forth between clients and volunteers at the Caring Kitchen. On a weekly basis, Caring Kitchen volunteers can see the difference the meal delivery makes for the clients, both physically and emotionally.

“These are patients who are very, very sick,” says Angle Slater, Supervisor at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley’s Oncology Infusion Center. “The Caring Kitchen supports our patients with nutritious homestyle meals, something very different than the frozen or processed food that patients sometimes rely on because they’re too sick to cook.” Slater adds, “It’s even more than the meals – it’s that the patients feel supported because Caring Kitchen volunteers are calling them to check in, and stopping in to talk with them when they deliver the meals. That means so much to our patients.”

All this is possible thanks to generous individuals, agencies and businesses who have been supporting the Caring Kitchen’s first year of operations with grants, donations, staff support, volunteers and sponsorships. Thank you to the Caring Kitchen’s project partners, Ceres Community Project, North Coast Opportunities, the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County, Adventist Health Ukiah Valley, Shannon Montoya, and Mendocino County Health and Human Services for bringing the Caring Kitchen to life. Thanks also to the Caring Kitchen’s members who contribute monthly as our Healthy Hero sustainable givers. In addition, thank you to the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, the Saturday Afternoon Club, the Dolan Family, the Lowenstein-Morawski Family, the Gordon Family, the Moorehead Family, Gregg Simpson Trucking, Friedman’s Home Improvement, Ukiah Paper Supply, Ken Fowler Auto, The Wild Women of Wine, and Adventist Health Howard Memorial for being community supporters of the Caring Kitchen Project.

While many donors have contributed substantial amounts of money, even small donations go a long way towards paying for the cost of a client’s meals. If you’d like to make a donation to support the Caring Kitchen during their second year of providing nutritious weekly meals to clients facing cancer, you may write a check or donate online. Donation checks can be mailed to NCO Caring Kitchen, 413 N. State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482 and online donations can be made through the Paypal button on the Caring Kitchen’s webpage. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @caring_kitchen to see what’s happening in the kitchen!

Program(s) Involved: Community Wellness Projects Caring Kitchen Project