Sometimes great resources lay undiscovered until we are in need. Three years ago I was introduced to Fox Valley Food For Health (FVFFH) when a good friend of mine was battling Stage IV cancer and we were searching for meal resources. Fast forward to fall of 2019 when I was faced with back surgery and six weeks of “no” restrictions for bending, twisting, knee bending or lifting more than 10 lbs. Meal preparation (and shopping) seemed like a daunting task. Week one after back surgery I enjoyed meals prepped prior to surgery or those brought by friends. Standing for any length of time or bending over to cook was an immediate challenge. And my husband was in a heavy traveling cycle, so timing was not optimal for in-home help. Kicking off week two of rehab, a week’s worth of prepared food was ordered from a meal delivery company. When half a week’s food arrived in an extremely large and heavy box, I cancelled future orders, appalled by all the packaging waste (not to mention mediocre and expensive food).
Sharing my food dilemma with the same friend who used the gift of FVFFH during her cancer treatment, she suggested I call FVFFH. After a home visit from one of their client care coordinators to review my home environment and medical condition, I was given the gift of Fox Valley Food For Health for the remainder of my six-week limitations. Typically, meal sessions are 8-12 weeks; I was happy to make a donation to this wonderful non-profit rather than support the meal delivery company with wasteful packaging practices and so so food.
As today marks six weeks post surgery with restrictions now lifted, I’m able to prepare meals on my own. Better yet, I’m an ambassador for FVFFH and want to share their mission, story and how it made a difference in my recovery. As I transition out of their care and my Delivery Angel has picked up the last of my reusable containers, I send my heartfelt thanks to the teens and adult volunteers, staff and donors who make Fox Valley Food For Health possible.
“WE COOK, WE CARE, WE CONNECT”
Just how did Fox Valley Food for Health get started? Cofounders Susan Leigh and Mary Fremgen launched their dream in 2013 after meeting each other in the nutrition-cooking program at Living Well Cancer Resource Center years earlier. They knew that the right foods are medicine and play an important part in recovering from major illnesses. They also believe that today’s teens need to learn how to cook properly. Fittingly, FVFFH’s mission is to promote a nutrition-focused community through teen education and service to those struggling with a health crisis.
Every week, many Fox Valley Food For Health volunteers join together to prepare, cook, package, and deliver their delicious and nutritious meals. Teen chefs, working with adult mentors, learn cooking skills and increase their knowledge of nutrition, healthy eating behaviors, and food safety.
The meals they provide are nutrient-rich and primarily plant-based, with an emphasis on organic and sustainable ingredients. FVFFH chefs prepare vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruits in a variety of creative ways. They include a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables that are rich in phytochemicals, plant chemicals that act as antioxidants and have a vital role in preventing and fighting diseases. High quality protein foods, such as fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy, are also incorporated into FVFFH menus.
Thanks to the commitment of community farmers and volunteer gardeners, FVFFH are able to organically grow fresh vegetables and herbs for use in their kitchen. They even prepare and freeze some of this produce to infuse menu items with a “fresh off the vine” flavor over the winter months. A wonderful touch is that the meals are delivered by volunteer “Delivery Angels” on Wednesday mornings to client families between 9:30 am and 11:00 am in snap lock reusable containers. My delivery angel, Chris, was also a former recipient of FVFFH when she was battling cancer. The meals are portion controlled, nutritious and absolutely delicious. And their chef shares some of the recipes with you each week to help encourage making healthy menu choices that help your body heal. I felt like I had my own personal recovery culinary team.
Their model, designed by the cofounders for Fox Valley Food For Health is a win, win, win. First, it is a wonderful organization that teaches our teens about how to grow, harvest and cook healthy food. Second, it provides meaningful adult mentoring, volunteering and “Delivery Angel” opportunities. And third, it provides nutritious and healthy food for those families struggling with a health crisis. If you are looking for a Fox Valley cause that makes an immediate difference in the lives of families, consider volunteering for FVFFH, attending their events or making a donation. Checks may be sent to FVFFH, PO Box 532, Geneva, IL. 60134 or give online at www.foxvalleyfoodforhealth.org. Cheers to healthy eating and my new family of friends at Fox Valley Food for Health!