Eugene group provides meals for people with life-threatening illnesses
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For the past four years, a local charity called Positive Community Kitchen has been busy cooking and delivering nutritious meals to people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The tasty provisions are locally sourced, organic and contain no gluten. And what’s more, they’re completely free.
The organization’s meals are specifically designed for individuals undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation, says Shanna Hutton, president of Positive Community Kitchen’s board of directors. “When you’re going through a process like chemo and radiation, it’s important to eat something nourishing and healthy for your body.”
She notes that PCK’s meal plan is very nutrient-dense and includes dishes such as hearty soups, broccoli and quinoa salad, and stuffed chicken breast with roasted vegetables.
“Our goal is to bridge that gap between healthy food and delicious food,” she advises.
Hutton proudly notes that PCK has grown considerably since its inception in 2013, serving more meals to more clients in the Eugene-Springfield area. “We’ve doubled our cooking days (from one day to two) and our client base has more than doubled (from 30 to about 75),” she says. Furthermore, the agency has started an organic garden near the PCK’s office on 2621 Augusta St.
Presently, the organization has three staff members and is run primarily by volunteers, including about 20 teenage students from local high schools. The students help out at the agency’s kitchen, located in the Stellaria Building at 150 Shelton-McMurphey Blvd., in downtown Eugene.
“We believe in getting the teen perspective,” Hutton says, pointing out that two teens currently serve on the board of directors. “One of the beauties of the program is that local teens can learn about healthy living and healthy cooking. They gain empowerment skills and have the reward of helping those in the community who really need it.”
Connor Marsh and Elena Nesbit, both juniors at South Eugene High School, have been kitchen volunteers for the past several months. Although volunteerism is part of their high school community service requirement, both Marsh and Nesbit agree that their time in the kitchen is both fun and rewarding.
“We’re helping people in need, and everybody is really nice to each other here,” Marsh says. “This is a good way to spend my time.”
Nesbit concurs. “Everyone is always open to helping others, and it’s good to know that what we’re doing is actually beneficial to the people in the community,” she said.
Head chef Cody Fuqua is in charge of all kitchen operations, which means he’s responsible for overseeing the volunteers, as well as procuring ingredients, planning menus and coordinating meal deliveries. He says the food is prepared and packaged at the kitchen before being delivered by volunteer “delivery angels,” who drop off food packages to both clients and their families.
“The meals are delivered once each week and feature salad, two soups, two entrees and dessert,” Fuqua said. “And they’re all gluten-free.”
Gina York of Eugene was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer earlier this year and has been receiving PCK meals since April. “This is a really helpful resource for me, especially going through something like this,” she says.
York, who has been undergoing extensive chemotherapy treatment, has found the food delivered by PCK to be delicious and greatly appreciated by her and her two grown children who reside with her.
“The meals are nice because I don’t have to worry about cooking,” she says.
“I have some fatigue, but I know that (the food) is helping me.”
Another Eugene resident, Janice Hornsby, has only kind words to say about the healthy meals she received from PCK’s kitchen, both in 2015 and 2016.
She and her late husband, Barry, who died from lung cancer in 2015, really enjoyed the soups provided by the agency even though he had no appetite toward the end of his illness. The following year, her 20-something daughter suffered a life-threatening ailment and also received meals for a short while.
“I don’t have enough good things to say about them,” Hornsby said. “It was great to have them deliver meals to us. … It was always a pleasant experience during a difficult time.”
Cheryl Rade is a freelance writer from Eugene. She can be reached at email@example.com.