On a holiday built on food, Thanksgiving meals from Community Servings are medicine
On a holiday built on food, Thanksgiving meals delivered Wednesday by Community Servings were better than a dose of medicine.
“It means a lot,” said Cathy Camp, 65, after two volunteers from the Jamaica Plain nonprofit dropped off a week’s supply of lunches, frozen dinner entrees, snacks, and a Thanksgiving meal to her Dorchester apartment. “They make you feel important.”
Serving nutritious meals to people like Camp is at the heart of Community Servings’ mission. She said she’s a dialysis patient who uses oxygen and has a broken hip.
The meals she’s been receiving from Community Servings for 10 to 12 years are “kidney friendly,” Camp said. The organization specializes in providing food to seriously ill patients and their families from a menu of 15 different medical diets.
“I get what I can eat,” Camp said. “I don’t have to worry about what I’m getting.”
The nonprofit serves about 1,300 people in 21 communities every day, using food from area farms and preparing meals from scratch, said David Waters, the chief executive. On Wednesday, Community Servings enlisted extra volunteers to make sure all their clients got Thanksgiving meals, plus their regular food allotment.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to have the volunteers here with their families to help us deliver. For many of them it has become a holiday tradition,” said Waters, who started at Community Servings as a volunteer in 1990 when the organization was founded. “There are adults here who started volunteering when they were children and are now doing it with their kids.”
Kevin Conner, the executive chef, said he began planning for Thanksgiving at the end of September. The menus vary depending on a patient’s medical needs, he said.
There’s turkey breast for diabetics and turkey pot pie or turkey tetrazzini for people who need to eat softer foods, he said. Salads are prepared with kale, roasted butternut squash, quinoa, and dried cranberries.
“This is the best of the best,” said Conner, who marks his sixth year at Community Servings on Sunday. “This is a food-driven holiday and it evokes memories and typically evokes family as well. So you want to give that connection for people, especially when you’re sick. You want something that can get your appetite going.”
Before volunteers headed out to make deliveries, Waters gave an overview of the nonprofit’s philosophy of using food as medicine and providing meals that tempt even sick people to eat.
“Sick people have no appetite. So if we bring mediocre food, what I call my high-school cafeteria food, they’re not going to eat it. So your time and our time and the food would all be wasted,” Waters said. “So we work really hard to make sure our food is really beautiful. It’s all made from scratch the way your grandmother would make it.”
Among the volunteers were Sharryn Ross and Jon Truslow, retirees from Jamaica Plain who got involved with Community Servings more than two decades ago as a way to teach their children about giving back.
They participated in a program that provided holiday baskets filled with items requested on wish lists by needy families.
One year, a girl asked for crayons. Ross said the girl’s request was eye-opening for her daughter, who was then 10 years old.
“She was blown away by the fact that somebody didn’t even have crayons,” Ross said.
For more than 20 years, Ross and Truslow have spent the day before Thanksgiving delivering meals for the nonprofit.
In Dorchester, Tim McCants, 58, watched the couple from his third-floor porch as they unloaded white bags of meals from the back of a maroon Subaru Forester.
When they reached his apartment, McCants patted his belly to show his appreciation for the food.
“There are people out there thinking about other people,” he said.
When Ross and Truslow celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary four years ago, they held a small dinner party in a conference room at Community Servings catered by Conner, Ross said.
The organization limits its administrative costs and effectively uses volunteers to help clients, she said.
“The food is so nourishing and it’s so tailored to them,” Ross said. “It makes them feel better.”