Another volunteer organization that we accessed during my cancer ordeal was “The Teen Kitchen Project.” Honestly, this organization was a lifesaver during the critical 9 months that I was fighting cancer. Again, we were directed to this organization by the cancer coordinators at my doctors office. We had to apply to be accepted, but they normally accept anyone that has just started their cancer journey. The Teen Kitchen Project was started several years ago by Angela because she saw a need for such a thing. She had a child with cancer, and during her ordeal, she came up with this idea. At the time of her son’s cancer ordeal, she really felt like she needed help providing food for herself, her son, and her family. If you have never had cancer, it might be hard to understand. The minute you are diagnosed with cancer, you are baracaded with doctor appointments, blood tests, scans, hospital visits, physician visits, medications, and the list goes on. Once surgery and chemotherapy start, it gets even worse. It can be so overwhelming because it seems like your life suddenly only revolves around the cancer. There is very little time for anything else Cancer takes over your life and your familys life! And you have no choice in the matter. You have to do what you have to do to survive!
After Angela’s son survived his cancer battle, she decided to start this volunteer organization for several reasons. Her first reason, of course, was to help cancer patients and their families. Her second reason was a little more detailed. You see, we live in the agriculture belt of the Central Valley in California. This is where millions of tons of food is grown and shipped worldwide. Because of this, we have a very large Mexican population that work in the fields. But even though many of the breadwinners work in the fields, the children are suffering because they do not have access to or understand the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables. 80% of the children in the Central Valley are at risk for Diabetes. And this is where Angela got her second reason.
Angela decided to start an organization that would provide meals to cancer patients. The meals would be delivered once a week and there would be enough food for the entire week. This was a HUGE benefit for families fighting cancer. She also decided to accept volunteer high school students from the local high school and teach them how to cook, the value of nutrition, give them some skills, teach them compassion, and also build their self-esteem! What a concept! She does employ several professional chefs to supervise the kids, but the kids do almost all of the work. She has between 20 – 30 kids per week that show up on Tuesday mornings and start preparing and cooking all the meals to be delivered on Wednesday and Thursday. The majority of the food is donated from the agriculture sector. Once the food is prepared, it is packaged in special containers and bags for each family are filled to the brim with healthy, delicious food that is cooked with the cancer patient in mind. They try to use only natural ingredients and eliminate anything that might make a cancer patient sick. A lot of thought and time goes into the food every single week. Once the food is packaged and bags filled, then an army of volunteers show up on Wednesdays and Thursdays to deliver the bags to each and every cancer patient on the list.
We had no idea how important these bags of food were going to be. Once I started Chemo, I became deathly sick. My husband had to care for me 24/7. This continued for almost 9 months. He was literally too tired to cook for himself. Unfortunately, I did not have much of an appetite and could not keep hardly anything down. I did manage to eat a few things each week though. He really looked forward to our deliveries on Wednesday. These bags saved a tremendous amount of time. They meant that he did not have to go shopping except maybe once a week for a few extras like milk, etc. He could not leave me for more than half an hour most days. He also did not have to cook anything. All of the meals were pre-cooked and ready to go in the refrigerator. When a container was empty, all he had to do was rinse it out. That meant he did not have to spend time washing pots, pans and dishes. Once the containers were rinsed, he simply put them in the bag to be returned at the same time the next bag was delivered the following Wednesday. You have no idea what a difference this made in our lives~My husband could concentrate on taking care of me and not worry about shopping, cooking and dishes. In our eyes, this woman was an ANGEL sent from HEAVEN! I honestly do not believe we would have made it through without her organization. Again, I intend to help her at some point down the road with a large donation!