Change Food is excited to put a spotlight on another Change Food community member – the Ceres Community Project and its founder, Cathryn Couch. For the past eight years, Ceres Community Project has revolutionized meal delivery service for vulnerable and underserved communities by providing 100% organic, sustainably raised meals to low income people and families struggling, as well as a nutritional education program that alters longterm eating habits for the better.
In preparing over 100,000 meals each year, Ceres is making real change in Northern California and across the country. In using local teen volunteers and adult volunteer supervisors in their gardens and kitchens, Ceres involves the communities they serve in the food making process in the most intimate of ways — literally growing it from the ground up and preparing it. The teen volunteers take on a mature amount of responsibility in maintaining their garden and kitchen sites, including managing compost systems and pollinator habitats, seed saving, food safety, menu design, and cooking and serving meals, creating an ultimate garden-to-table experience.
Their four (and soon to be fifth) program sites in Sonoma and Marin counties, as well as nine other sites nationwide that have replicated the Ceres model, are seeing real results in the health and eating habits of their clients. Research has shown that there is an added 1.3 million servings of fresh fruits and vegetables amongst clients and teen volunteers, and thanks to what they learn as a part of the program, about 75% of those involved are eating less processed and fast foods.
Depending on their financial standing, clients of the Ceres Community Project receive either free or low-cost meals weekly. These meals include four complete entrees, a pint of soup, a pint of salad, and a healthy dessert. For more information about client services, or how to become a client, visit Ceres Project.
The Ceres Community Project emphasizes the correlation between diet and overall health via their meal delivery service and Healthy Foods Classes, which instruct students how to make healthier choices in the kitchen. Over the years, the Ceres Community Project has participated in the National Food is Medicine Coalition, presented at conferences such as the Integrated Medicine for the Underserved, as well as Nutrition & Health and others, and has also published several white papers on the correlation between food and health. Currently, the Ceres Community Project is developing a publication that makes a case for why organic and sustainably raised whole foods are the best fundamentals, and should be the standard, for meal programs and food banks who serve vulnerable communities. At Change Food, we couldn’t agree more and are looking forward to reading the next paper from Ceres Community Project.
Not only is the Ceres Community Project model effective, it is economically and environmentally sustainable, and engages the communities it serves in tangible ways. Ceres is an outstanding example of how providing meals to underserved people can be a mutually beneficial business model that respects their clients. And it’s adaptable, too — any organization wishing to replicate the Ceres Community Project model is welcome to attend a four day training that provides all necessary instruction. So far, every group that has been trained has successfully launched programs in their own communities.
Click Ceres Project to learn more about the Ceres Community Project, an exciting and transformative organization. Their inclusive website also includes recipes, informative videos, nutritional info, and reports on food and health and can serve as a valuable and inspirational reference to anyone interested in learning more about food as medicine.
Kelly Mertz earned her undergraduate degree in International Studies and French Language from American University, where she focused on International Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. She is fascinated by public nutritional health campaigns and the politics of food aid.