Unique program provides nutritious meals to patients fighting cancer
Special to The Union
How You Can Help
$4 funds one meal for a cancer patient or caregiver
$20 provides five meals for a cancer patient of caregiver
$40 provides 10 meals for a cancer patient or caregiver
$100 provides 25 meals for a cancer patient or caregiver
Comfort Cuisine is currently looking for volunteers. For more information, call Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation at 530-477-9700.
The physicians, staff and volunteers at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s Community Cancer Center believe that treatment of cancer goes beyond the disease.
They believe it encompasses treating the whole person, including caregivers and loved ones also impacted by cancer. As a result, the Cancer Center offers a variety of support services and programs, including Comfort Cuisine.
Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Comfort Cuisine Program is a first-of-its-kind program aimed at providing Cancer Center patients and their loved ones with tasty, nutritious, on-the-go meals.
The program is now in its 12th year and Program Coordinator Paul Faahs and his team of volunteers have provided more than 700 ready-to-eat meals a year to Cancer Center patients and their families.
“Comfort Cuisine meals are ready-to-eat and only require heating up,” said Faahs. “It’s one less thing for patients to worry about as they continue their healing journey.”
For Faahs, coordinating Comfort Cuisine is an enjoyable labor of love. Faahs says he has enjoyed cooking since he was 10 years old.
He is self-taught, but has had the great fortune of taking classes from James Beard, Marion Cunningham (of Fanny Farmer Cookbook fame), and a local favorite, Chef Peter Selaya of New Moon Café.
Typically, around 12 volunteers help prepare and cook the food in the BriarPatch Food Co-op Community Cooking School located on Zion Street in Nevada City. Volunteers help Faahs prepare, cook and package the meals and are required to undergo food safety training and compliance education.
According to the American Cancer Society, studies show that providing adequate nutrition to patients undergoing cancer treatment is a simple comfort that can increase their energy and sustain them during a difficult time.
Patients who eat the right kinds of foods before, during and after treatment often feel better and stay stronger.
“The meals prepared via Comfort Cuisine help cancer patients maintain their body weight and strength,” said Dr. Richard Evans, Radiation Oncologist for SNMH. “It also keeps their body tissue healthy and can help fight infections. Cancer treatment is more effective when the patient is well-nourished and is getting enough calories and protein in their diet.”
The American Cancer Society points out that eating too little is a common issue among cancer patients, so having a readily available meal right where they are receiving treatment can make a world of difference.
According to SNMHF Executive Director Kimberly Parker, Comfort Cuisine was conceptualized by Nevada County local Ann Wilder, who is herself a cancer survivor. Wilder was instrumental in driving the start of the program and was active with it for several years.
When the program first began, SNMHF raised funds to purchase a freezer to store the Comfort Cuisine meals inside the Cancer Center.
Meals include options such as beef stew, chicken fettucine, potato and leek vichyssoise, Tuscan style minestrone soup, spring vegetable tart, turkey dinner with the fixings, “Mom’s mac and cheese” and meatloaf with gravy, green beans and mashed potatoes, to name a few.
Full menus can be found in the lobby of the SNMH Cancer Center and Infusion Center. Patients (or those who would like to purchase food for a patient) can buy the meals for a suggested donation of $4.
Comfort Cuisine meals can also be purchased by or for cancer patient caregivers. According to Parker, caregivers often need to be present with a patient around the clock, sometimes leaving little to no time for themselves.
“Caregiving can be a very stressful job,” said Parker. “Our Comfort Cuisine Program helps with caregiver support by providing properly prepared meals to those caring for cancer patients.”
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Amid rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases reported in the county, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has seen an increased number of patients with the virus, according to the hospital’s president and CEO, Dr. Brian Evans.