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The one hundred honoree: Ceres Community Project

Donor Story

The one hundred honoree: Ceres Community Project

Mass General Giving

The Ceres Community Project engages young people in the preparation of healthy, delicious and organic meals for people struggling with cancer, teaching youths how to cook and eat healthy while dispensing nourishment and caring support where it’s needed most.

In 2006, when professional chef Cathryn Couch began giving cooking lessons to a friend’s daughter, she decided to donate the meals they prepared to three families struggling with a health crisis, including one family whose mother had advanced breast cancer. Using that inspiration, Cathryn founded the Ceres Community Project less than a year later, naming it for the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Today, Ceres delivers 105,000 meals a year to approximately 750 primarily low-income residents of Sonoma, Marin and Alameda counties in California. Under the guidance of professional staff and adult mentors, more than 500 young people, ages 14 to 22, create organic whole food dishes that aim to boost the appetite and strengthen the immune system. The nonprofit grows fruits and vegetables in its youth-run garden and purchases as many ingredients as possible from local farmers and producers.

Eighty-five percent of meals are provided free of charge and 15 percent at a subsidized below-market price. Volunteer “Client Liaisons” share nutritional information and tips with clients each week to help combat common side effects of cancer treatment, such as loss of appetite, nausea, dry/sore mouth and changes in taste. These side effects can often lead to malnutrition, which reduces treatment effectiveness and prolongs recovery.

The project has grown to four commercial kitchens in Northern California and has trained teams from 11 different communities across the U.S. to launch programs based on its innovative model for improving community health.