Ceres Community Project

Back in 2006 Cathryn Couch never would have guessed that what started out as a small project for a friend’s daughter would grow into a program serving more than 90,000 meals. With that one request from a friend, a new project – focused on providing meals for cancer patients and the disabled – was born.

The Ceres Community Project is a Bay Area-based program dedicated to providing teens the opportunity to learn about nutrition and cook meals for those in need. On why the program focuses on teen involvement, Couch explained,

“if we could influence how young people see their relationship with food-if we can make them excited about the impact of their food choices on their own health, on the health of the people they love and on the planet – then we’re going to help raise a generation of people who will help to shape a healthier food system and a healthier healthcare system.”

Because Ceres focuses on serving the sick, the program makes sure to keep its meals as nutritious as possible. While other groups – such as Meals On Wheels – also deliver food to ill individuals, Ceres makes sure all its meals follow the American Institute of Cancer Research’s nutritional recommendations. Not only are all their meals organic, Ceres sources locally-grown produce and eliminates all white flour and sugar. If the aim is to help sickly clients, then Ceres believes they should serve the healthiest meals possible. According to Couch,

“When people are sick, they’re thrown into this incredibly stressful situation, and preparing meals goes out the window, even though that’s when they need healthy food the most.”

To say the Ceres Community Project has been a success is an understatement. With over 400 volunteers, Ceres has expanded from its origin at Sonoma County and launched similar programs in Marin and Alameda County, as well as Madison, Wisconsin and Eugene, Oregon. The program has even partnered with Whole Foods, selling specialty salads. Each salad sold provides the organization an additional dollar of funding.

Ceres’ clients are diverse and many come to the organization after recommendations from doctors or others in the program. Once on the program, individuals can receive up to 24 weeks of meals – all organic and delivered to their door. For most, these foods will be the first time they’ve eaten organic, whole-foods meals. Couch hopes that along with providing clients the meals they need, the program will teach healthier eating habits and the power of nutrient-rich food.

“The way we feed ourselves is fundamental to our well-being and connectedness to the world,” Couch says. “If we don’t know how to prepare our own food, we’re really pawns in a food system that, for the most part, doesn’t have our best interests at heart.”