June 15, 2010
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2007, I was overwhelmed with feelings, advice, information, and offers of meals from well-meaning friends. One piece of information which turned out to be invaluable was about the Ceres Project, a Sonoma county non-profit group who delivered meals to people going through cancer treatment. Yeah, sounds great, I said, not meaning it because I like to cook and don't care to be the recipient of charity--I mean, we are struggling financially--what self-employed artists living in an expensive area aren't? but free food? and how good can it be? we aren't that poor! so I went on with all of the oh-so-crazy details which envelop and drown you in the early stages of a cancer diagnosis. Several thousand dollars and weeks of craziness later, my friend reminds me of the Ceres Project. It's really good food, she says. In the meantime, I've discovered that not only is cancer expensive, even for those covered, and I use that term loosely, by insurance, but many many many well-intentioned friends want to bring you food or help or money or how can we help? so I call the Ceres Project people, and they are kind without pity, generous without condescension I might have expected and certainly dreaded. While it was clear that they wanted to help people who were truly in need, it was also clear that "need" is flexibly defined. We are stuck in that strange self-employed land where we make enough money to be middle class but never have enough money to get by, and cancer is a great equalizer. I found out that they would deliver food for my whole family, not just me. I'm not sure how many people who are reading this will understand the difference. At the time, I was the only member of my family--two adults and two children--who cooked. If I became truly incapacitated, we were looking at months of ramen, noodles and cheese, and take-out--not only expensive but not in the immune-building food groups. Not only that, but they would start delivering that week even though my chemotherapy didn't start until the following week. As it turned out, my complicated and interesting mother was visiting on the same day that we would receive our first box, a week after my mastectomy. . .that alone would deserve a rave review. We got our first box, understand that I am writing about a period in my life which happened over two years ago, and I still remember some of the food they delivered that day. Ceres Project is connected with local growers, so we received meals which were not only organic, but locally grown--this was January--not the best time of the month for vegetables--but our box was full of plentiful, flavorful, wonderful food. My mother still talks about the beet, barley, walnuts and beet greens salad--yum! My box included meals for several days and for a family of four. It always included immune broth, and later the ingredients to make my own (which I still do), salad, whole grains, some kind of protein, veggies, and a dessert. The box came with a sheet explaining it's contents and sometimes some additional information. I received a box for all of the months of my treatment, until I called and said we didn't need it anymore. I have a friend who has metastasized breast cancer who received a box for several years. I have little tiny, quibbling feedback to give, mostly from the point of view of a foodie: my kids didn't love the food and part of the reason I welcomed it was because I wouldn't have to feel guilty about not feeding them. They had a lot of carbs that spring. A kid-friendly, less spicy option would be welcome. I understand that this would be more work and maybe doesn't fit into their concept. Also, a problem with the pasta dishes. Pasta should be stored separately so that it doesn't get mushy. Did I mention that these are quibbles? Frankly, the Ceres Project made those months much, much easier. My husband and I both loved the food. "What did we get this time?" "Oooooooh," every Thursday, every time. Memorable food, a generous spirit, a great way for local teenagers to donate their time--they do most of the cooking: not only do they learn to give but they learn to cook. The Ceres Project makes a point of using local growers, the food is mostly organic, and our meals showed a deep concern for how to eat in a way which would best support people who were being poisoned, literally, by the best that Western Medical Science can provide. whew. Did I mention that the food is delicious, too? And that people who are going through chemo pretty much lose interest in food? Not only do you feel lousy, but food tastes weird for a lot of us(me, that's who I care about--everything tasted weird and flat) the Ceres Project food was fully-flavored, always had a variety of textures, and tasted yummy as well as healthy. Okay, the desserts weren't great. Another quibble. I don't know how to make desserts taste good without refined flour and sugar. I could have skipped these and my kids just laughed. Otherwise, oh, you should have tasted those green beans with sesame seeds. . .and the quinoa salad, and a beautiful fish dish with tomatoes and zucchini, and. . .you get the idea. On a practical level: the people who run this were well organized, prompt and efficient. Responsive as well as caring. I appreciated the efficiency almost as much as the kindness almost as much as the food. Of all the things I received when I had cancer, and I had an enormous support group--Northern California is amazing in terms of giving--this was a highlight. This is truly a great non-profit, and deserving of any help they can get. If I ever win the lottery or receive an unexpected inheritance, these are the people I will give to first.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
My life when I was going through treatment for breast cancer.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every week
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
MY ROLE:Client Served & received healthy, mostly organic, immune-boosting meals during treatment for breast cancer.