I’d like to introduce you to one of Sonoma Counties finest non profit organizations, The Ceres Community Project-giving back, Sonoma Style™. It’s my favorite local organization, and here’s why.
Ceres supports primarily low-income people in our Sonoma and Marin counties, struggling because of a serious health challenge with free, home-delivered, nourishing, organic and locally produced meals; plus they provide nutrition education and the caring support of community through the use of teen volunteers to grow and prepare the food, and community volunteers to deliver the meals.
Why do they do this? Because research shows healthy meal support is a low-cost “upstream” investment that significantly improves healthy outcomes and lowers health care costs. Their program reduces social isolation and leads to significant long-term changes in eating habits – which means healthier people and fewer illnesses in the future.
And even more inspiring to me is the fact that ALL of the meals are prepared by teens between the ages of 14 and 19 who volunteer to work in the organic gardens to grow some of their food supply and in the three commercial kitchens used to prepare these healthy, healing and delicious meals.
This gives teens the opportunity to learn to both cook and eat for health. And gives them something productive to do after school, while gaining the skills to be successful, develop leadership skills, become change-makers in their community, and discover the joy of giving back. All while having fun and developing a great community of friends and mentors.
This year Ceres will engage more than 350 youth in about 17,000 hours of service learning about growing, preparing and eating a fresh, locally grown and organic diet. Teens spend ½ hour of each shift in a formal education program exploring the impact of their food choices on their health, the health of their community and the health of the planet. Teens make a 3-month commitment and the average teen is involved for 10 months, with many participating for several years or longer.
Ceres also educates our whole community about the vital importance of a diet based on healthy organic and locally produced foods, as well as helps to provide the knowledge, skills and inspiration for people to make and maintain real change in how we all eat.
They publish and distribute Nourishing Connections Cookbook, which is available on line. They offer a class called Healing Foods Basics, partner with local community clinics to teach nutrition, offer catering, and actively work to educate volunteers, donors and especially health professionals about the difference that whole organic foods can make for themselves and their patients.
This heart based and dynamic organization is the brain child of founder, Cathryn Couch. It all started in June of 2006 when a friend asked her if she could hire her teenage daughter for the summer to intern with her in her capacity as a chef. The teen didn’t know how to cook, so Cathryn taught her, and in the process the organic, whole food meals they prepared supported three local families struggling with a health crisis. And so it began.
This year they will serve over 93,000 incredibly healthy and delicious meals.
Here is their inspiring Mission Statement:
We create health for people, communities and the planet through love, healing food and empowering the next generation.
♥ Supporting individuals dealing with serious illness with free, delivered and nutrient-rich prepared meals, nutrition education, and a community of caring.
♥ Involving young people as volunteer gardeners and chefs, giving them direct, hands-on experience of the difference that fresh, healthy foods and community make, and of their own capacity to contribute.
♥ Educating the broader community, including health professionals, about the connection between fresh, healthy food, strong social networks, healing and wellness.
♥ Connecting people of all ages and from all walks of life to one another, and to their value as an integral part of the community.
Check out the video below to hear more about Ceres and see some of the group in action. Be prepared, the photos of the food will make your mouth water!
What I’ve found in my brief time volunteering there is a group of people, teens, volunteers and paid employees, who are respectful, hard working and dedicated to their mission. It’s a joy indeed to give back to our community with the Ceres Community Project. It’s pure Sonoma Style™ for sure! Won’t you join me in a thumbs up or like for Ceres? And spread the word…perhaps your community could adopt a little Sonoma Style™.