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Jefferson Award Winners, Student Volunteers Provide Healthy Food To Cancer Patients

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Julie Burford and Ann Wathen (CBS)

Julie Burford and Ann Wathen (CBS)

SAN RAFAEL (CBS 5) – It’s a perfect recipe: students learning to cook healthy, organic food, to create meals to feed cancer patients. It’s called The Ceres Community Project. It started in Sonoma, and thanks to two determined women, it’s expanded and taken hold in Marin too.

Julie Burford and her volunteers tailor their menus to make sure nutrition it a top priority, as we found out during a recent afternoon in the San Rafael kitchen.

“Greens are really good for cancer because they give that chlorophyl and they help build those good cells in our body,” chef Trudy Schafer added.

Schafer’s menu looked more like a five-star restaurant than a community non-profit—and that’s exactly what Burford and Ann Wathen had in mind when they started the The Ceres Community Project of Marin.

“It’s based on the idea of bringing youth into a professional kitchen, connecting them with real, wholesome, organic food, and teaching them how to prepare it themselves,” Burford explained. “(Also) how easy it is to provide community service by bringing it to other people who really need it.”

Burford’s long been interested in the connection between nutrition and health. She collaborated with author Rebecca Katz for her book “Cancer Fighting Kitchen.”

Wathen, an experienced youth volunteer, liked the idea of teaching kids to fill a critical need.

“What I’ve seen is the joy of youth in the kitchen, the relationships that they are building with one another, the passion that they show towards the food, and also the compassion that they experience and express in regards to the clientele,” Wathen said. “It’s truly a wonderful circle.”

Wathen coordinates the student part of the program, training kitchen and delivery volunteers. Burford handles the donations, from securing fresh food from local growers to the details of sending more than 3,500 meals a year to families who truly need them.

“Eighty percent of cancer patients going through treatment are malnourished,” Burford said. “Cancer makes it very difficult for people to eat when they’re going through treatment.”

When Dawn Stranee’s husband Brett got cancer, the quality of the Ceres meals made a real difference.

“It really mattered to have the nutrition. And it mattered for it to be delicious,” Stranee remembered. “If you have pancreatic cancer, you don’t want to eat a lot and boy, my husband would eat that!”

Stranee’s husband lost his battle with cancer, but she took a message back to the young volunteers who served up so much more than just food.

“You want people to enjoy this delicious food,” she told them. “But understand that you are feeding peoples’ souls with the love that you put into it. So I just want to say thank you, thank you.”

So for guiding young people to feed and truly nourish those battling illness this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Julie Burford and Ann Wathen.

*Note: The Ceres Project of Marin may be losing its rented kitchen space. If you can help or want to get involved, use this link: www.ceresproject.org/marin

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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