Erin Cunning knows what life with cancer feels like. She experienced the emotional highs and lows after her late husband was diagnosed with the disease. Erin received comfort from friends and loved ones who regularly delivered meals to her family’s doorstep.
“Knowing the toll that cancer can take, I wanted to provide comforting meals to other families and know that the food they are receiving is nutritious and healthy,” Erin says.
A recipe of support
Erin partnered with Oregon Cancer Foundation in December of 2018 to pilot the foundation’s Freezer Meals Program. It was a success, and volunteers now gather once a month in the Hummingbird incubator kitchen in Eugene to prepare freezer-ready slow-cooker meals for Lane County cancer patients.
Erin donates meal prep kits that volunteers then combine with fresh meat and produce to prepare 100 meals in just a few hours.
“The instructions in the kit walk them through the recipes step by step,” Erin says. “You just have to measure the ingredients; it’s super simple.”
“Each year, we provide between 300 and 400 families with financial assistance,” says OCF executive director Amy Johnston. “This program allows us to serve another 100 families with meals—and that’s huge.”
Gary Collins and a group of co-workers from First Interstate Bank, along with volunteers from Chambers Construction prepared meals in June.
“I lost my dad to cancer and my mom is a cancer survivor, as well, so this is near and dear to my heart,” Gary says. “Trying to cook when you feel terrible isn’t fun. I think this is an easy way to connect, give back and support people in our community who are going through a rough time.”
“This program wouldn’t be possible without volunteers,” says Katie Burke, events coordinator for Oregon Cancer Foundation. “And this is such a great team-building experience. When we were piloting the program last winter, my husband and my friends volunteered to help and when it was over, they said, ‘When do we get to do it again?’”
Erin is proud to see the program thriving, and she knows that it’s making a difference in the community. “I don’t know the families that receive these meals. But I go to sleep at night thinking, ‘Everyone’s going to get these dinners later.’ And, I just imagine how that will feel for them when they open their door and there are 10 dinners that they can cook when they need them—and I know that they’re healthy meals,” she says.
If you are a patient interested in receiving meals through the program, or if you are interested in volunteering to put the meals together, contact the Oregon Cancer Foundation office at 541-632-3654, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.