Meals for Health
Being diagnosed with cancer, or with any serious illness, is devastating. It changes everything – your relationships with others, with yourself, with your surroundings. After the diagnosis you necessarily spend a lot of energy making sense of what has happened. You learn about the illness and what to expect. You educate yourself on the best ways to care for your body, your mind and soul. Altogether, it can be overwhelming.
Studies have proven that many people are malnourished during cancer treatment and that a nutrient-rich diet can make a big difference in how your body handles disease. The diet also contributes to how quickly the body can progress to healing and wellness. When there are so many serious concerns to consider, creating a clean, nutrient-rich (organic) menu can be a big project for patients and their families. Enter Meals 4 Health & Healing, a program started five years ago by local nonprofit The Heimerdinger Foundation, established by Kathie Heimerdinger in 2011 and that started serving meals to cancer patients in 2013.
Kathie lost her husband Mike Heimerdinger in 2011 to a rare form of aggressive cancer. During his illness she researched organic foods and healthy food options, knowing that it would help him feel better. She quickly learned how hard it can be to find the time to shop for those foods and prepare them as well. During her research she happened upon a recipe book published by the Ceres Community Project based in Sonoma, California. In addition to finding answers to many of her food preparation questions, Kathie also found that the organization provides meals to people with serious illnesses, including cancer.Ceres (www.ceresproject.org.) engages teenage volunteers as chefs alongside adult volunteers. and Kathie contacted Ceres to talk about the project, visiting with founder Cathryn Couch to determine how to bring the program to the Middle Tennessee community. In a short time, Meals 4 Health & Healing was born.
The mission of Meals 4 Health & Healing Is two-fold: to nourish and support those in cancer treatment and to teach about good nutrition and the importance of what we eat. Meals 4 Health & Healing volunteers are also taught weekly “why we serve what we serve”. The foods that are provided to the patients are chosen for their immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to being preservative-free, which helps support healing and recovery. Equally important, clients receive the food from a caring source, which supports their minds and hearts.
Currently, Meals 4 Health & Healing serves approximately 500 meals to 60 clients and their caregivers each week.During the last 5 years they have served over 45,000 meals! In addition to a mostly part-time staff, the program is hugely supported by teen and adult volunteers. Katharine Ray, Executive Director of The Heimerdinger Foundation, calls their program volunteers “the engine behind the program” and says they could not do what they do every week without those volunteers.
The clients of Meals 4 Health & Healing may receive the meals for up to 6 months, building a strong relationship with the organization during that time. The first 3 months of receiving 8 meals per week per person are free of charge. To receive meals the second 3 months, Meals 4 Health & Healing asks for a minimum donation of $10 per week per person. Katharine explains that the organization will also ask in return that the patients and their caregivers make a commitment to try to incorporate their newfound knowledge and nutrition practices into their overall lifestyle to promote a lifetime of good health.
The program prioritizes those patients who have an acute need and little-to-no access to healthy food. Clients must be residents of Davidson or Williamson County. Providing fresh, organic food is something that the community increasingly values, apparently, as there is currently a waitlist for the program. Referrals Come to Meals 4 Health & Healing through area hospitals and their oncology programs, through Nurse Navigators and by word of mouth. Many more people going through cancer treatment are in need, and Meals 4 Health & Healing is hoping to expand to serve them as well, perhaps becoming a full-time program and increasing their reach and impact in the surrounding communities.
Volunteers are always needed; if you love the concept of the program and want to be involved call 615-730-5632, or email them at email@example.com and let them know how you would like to help. Or, better yet, schedule a visit to see what it’s all about. Everyone is welcome. Teens as young as 13 can help in the kitchen and in their organic Giving Garden, which is a great experience for them, building confidence and leadership skills by serving their community and by knowing they are making a difference.
If you would like to become a volunteer, here is where the needs are:
- Mondays – A crew comes in and cleans and sanitizes plasticware. There is a soup crew, and they chop and prepare veggies for the soup and the next day’s meals. They also produce a mineral broth weekly from organic veggies that are cooked down for hours.
- Tuesdays – Teens and adults come in and prepare the entire menu, which is designed by the chef and which includes 8 different dishes per person. They chop, cook, and stir, then allow the food to cool before packaging everything and putting the meals in the refrigerator for the next day’s deliveries.
- Wednesdays – A group of volunteers, Delivery Angels, pick up the food bags for delivery directly to the clients’ homes.
There are also benefit events throughout the year that you can be involved in. This past June was a big month with both the Annual “Drive for Dinger” Golf Tourney and the Celebration Dinner on June 16th and 17th. Watch for other events throughout the year and check out hfmeals.org for more information about this program.
Meals 4 Health & Healing would like to thank these contributors for their program support:
Calvary United Methodist Church
Green Door Gourmet