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“We create health for people, communities and the planet through love, healing food and empowering the next generation” according to the website of Ceres Community Project.

In doing so, Ceres operates three kitchens in Marin and Sonoma counties plus gardens in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. In addition, the organization has dozens of farm and food producer partners.

Cathryn Couch is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization, which said it is working to foster health by connecting people to one another and to a more healthful food system. She spoke at North Bay Business Journal's North Coast Specialty Food & Beverage Industry Conference on Jan. 31.

The organization is a meal-delivery nonprofit, “but we think of ourselves as a health, nutrition and food system change organization,” Couch said at the conference.

Couch earned an MBA from the University of Michigan. She has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, including four years as director of communications for The Hunger Project’s U.S, operations from 1987 to 1991. From 1993 to 2003 she founded and ran one of the first gourmet organic home-delivered meal services in the San Francisco Bay region.

Couch is a founding member of the Sonoma County Food System Alliance, a founding board member for Meals on Wheels California, and a member of the Food is Medicine Coalition, a national association of nutritional meal service providers.

The project was founded in 2007 and is annual budget is $2.3 million with a paid staff of 30 but with more than 1,000 volunteers.

Ceres community project has an annual budget of $2.3 million with a paid staff of 30 but with more than 1,000 volunteers. The nonprofit organization operates three kitchens in Marin and Sonoma counties plus gardens in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. In addition, the organization has dozens of farm and food producer partners.

Ceres’ effort includes providing “100,000 organically, medically tailored meals each year to more than 700 clients and their families.” These are families that face a health crisis and the meals are “medically tailored, organic” offerings that help “relieve stress, prevent and address malnutrition and provide a direct experience of healthy eating.”

The program provides eight to 24 meals for everyone in the family (four complete dinners, a pint of each soup and salad, a healthy dessert delivered once/week.” As part of is healthy food mission, Ceres also offers nutrition education.

But in addition, the organization also works with young people in the food preparation area. Its website notes that Ceres engaged about 450 young people from 65 schools to not only help grow food but prepare the meals going out to its clients. Participants make a commitment for three hours a week for three months, but about 30 percent remain involved for one to four years.

Data collected in connection with a USDA grant show of those surveyed, about 54% reduced their consumption of fast food, and, 98 percent “are confident they can prepare a healthy meal from scratch.”

Once they leave the organization, Ceres data suggested that 45 percent were working or studying in fields related to the work done by Cere – and 62 percent said time at the nonprofit was a key influence.

Couch noted the North Bay group is also involved in a three year, $6 million state-funded student of Med-Cal patients suffering from congestive heart failure. The grant program calls for the clients to receive three months of “100 percent” nutrition.