Twice a week, Charlotte Gallyer and other volunteers roll up their sleeves at the Positive Community Kitchen near downtown Eugene. This week, they are preparing meals for 33 local families.
“To me, this is kind of like being in my own kitchen, just with a lot of family,” Charlotte says.
Positive Community Kitchen (PCK) is a donation-supported program. Teen and adult volunteers work alongside head Chef Cody Fuqua to prepare nutrient-rich, organic meals for people fighting life-threatening illnesses, including WVCI patients.
“Basically, that’s anything from cancer to Parkinson’s to heart disease. We’re really just helping anyone who is having a difficult time in life for medical reasons,” says Megan Payette, who joined the PCK staff a few months ago.
As the requests for meals have increased, so has the need for fresh produce. This year, in partnership with Northwest Youth Corps, Positive Community Kitchen has started preparing a garden plot on Corps-owned land in south Eugene.
“I had just too much space and I didn’t want the land to go fallow, so I was excited to learn that someone else wanted to come in and use it,” says Dan Rousseau, garden coordinator for Northwest Youth Corps.
The PCK garden will operate year-round, providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the kitchen— which will save the organization money, especially in the winter months when produce costs soar—while also providing a valuable service to more families.
“We just feel it’s really important for people who are going through an illness to be able to nourish their bodies, because that’s the best way to take care of yourself,” Megan says. “We also like to nourish the families, too. We believe it’s just as important to take care of the caregivers.”
Recipients of the meals get the nutrients needed to aid healing, while teen volunteers learn how to prepare foods in new ways.
“I’m usually a pretty healthy eater but this has really opened my eyes to the whole organic side of foods,” says 16-year-old Alex Bernard.
“They’re learning that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, and that good healthy food can taste great,” Cody says. “And, at the same time, they learn that these meals fulfill an important need in the community.”
Now, with the addition of the PCK garden, volunteers including 17-year-old Sylas Overton are learning the value of planting and cultivating the produce.
“PCK is definitely a place where you can feel appreciated and know that your time is going to benefit something bigger than you,” he says.
PCK is currently in need of additional teens and volunteers, as well as donations to support its food growing operation. The nonprofit has started a GoFundMe account to raise $15,000 to purchase garden tools and equipment, including a truck to transport the produce to the kitchen.
For more information on how you can support the project, click here.