(NECN) - With October being breast cancer awareness month, we're focusing on a Massachusetts non-profit that works daily to get cancer patients the nutrition they need during the toughest fight of their lives.
We’re putting Community Servings in the New England spotlight.
For the past 23 years, day in and day out, Community Servings volunteers either chop, stir, package, or deliver nutritious meals to Massachusetts residents who are sick.
This Bay State non-profit organization headquartered in Jamaica Plain, serves roughly 850 people. Twenty-one-percent of those are cancer patients.
“Everyone that we're feeding they're at a stage of an illness where they can't shop and cook for themselves, so they can’t walk to the store, or stand at the stove. And we're going to feed them as long as they're sick and we're going to help them get back on their feet,” says CEO David Waters.
Diane Sims is slowly getting back on her feet. Her doctor referred her to Community Servings five years ago when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
The meals she received weekly from Community Servings helped keep her strength up when she was undergoing chemotherapy. Now in remission, she still suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that makes it difficult for her to breathe.
“The days when I'm having my fatigue moments, I know it's there. All I have to do is heat and eat, so it's a blessing within itself,” she says.
“One great thing to eat when you're not feeling well is soup,” says registered dietician Susie Robertson.
She says each patient’s diet is specifically tailed to meet their individual health needs. Most diets are high in protein, fruits and vegetables and grains for long-lasting energy.
“There are studies showing that malnutrition can lead to an increased rate of hospitalization and also eating enough can help you withstand the treatments that you're undergoing.”
“We believe that food is medicine and we think it's the cheapest intervention to care for people who are sick,” Waters says. “The food is not just medically tailored, it's culturally appropriate. We want to bring you the meal your grandmother made when you were a child, because that elicits food memories of a time when you felt safe and secure.”
“Get on the bandwagon. Sign up. It's a good program to be under,” Sims says. “I think they are the best thing since sliced bread.”
Community Servings is funded primarily through donations; $25 is enough to feed a sick neighbor for an entire week. To make a donation, you can visit their website at servings.org
Here are some healthy recipes from the Community Servings nutrition department:
Roasted Buttercup Squash and Spinach Salad - Serves 6
Our Roasted Buttercup Squash and Spinach Salad contains two types of fruits and two types of vegetables, bringing a vibrant palette of color to your plate. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer. While fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients, they are often low in calories. People undergoing treatment for breast cancer may benefit from adding high-calorie yet heart-healthy foods, like canola oil and almonds, to help maintain weight.
Buttercup squash, a type of winter squash, has a mild, sweet flavor that pairs well with the bolder tastes of almonds and dried fruit. Like its relatives, butternut squash and pumpkin, the buttercup squash is rich in fiber, which aids digestive regularity, and potassium, which is essential to heart and muscle function.
2-3 buttercup squash* about 4 cups
4 tablespoons of canola oil
½ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt
½ cup chopped unsalted almonds
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 bag of baby spinach
½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
1 green apple, sliced very thinly
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Chop the squash in half and scoop out seeds.
3. Rub the squash halves with about 2 tablespoons of oil and place face up on baking sheet.
4. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the halves.
5. Place in the middle rack in the oven and cook for about 30-45 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through the squash.
6. Scoop out the flesh of the squash and cut into cubes.
7. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat.
8. Add almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until the almonds turn golden brown - about 5 minutes.
9. In a bowl, mix almonds and lemon juice together.
10. Add squash, dried fruit, and spinach to the bowl and toss gently to combine.
11. Layer the sliced green apples on top
*The buttercup squash can be replaced by any other winter squash, such as butternut, delicata, carnival, acorn, or pumpkin!
Pumpkin Parfaits: Serves 2
A perfect treat for the fall season, pumpkin parfaits are a creative way to increase intake of protein, calcium, and fiber. Greek yogurt is layered with granola and pumpkin puree to provide a balanced, nutrient-rich snack or mini-meal. Adequate protein is crucial for preserving lean body mass during cancer treatment. Beta carotene, which contributes to the rich orange color of pumpkin, is not only essential for eye health but is also an antioxidant.
1 cup of pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 six-ounce containers of plain or vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt
¼ cup chopped nuts of choice
¼ cup granola
1) In a bowl, mix together the pumpkin, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg
2) Place a layer of yogurt on the bottom of a tall, thin glass
3) Next, place a layer of pumpkin in the glass, followed by a layer of granola & nuts
4) Repeat as desired
Tip: This parfait can be customized to decrease calories for those who are watching their weight, or to increase calories for those who need to maintain weight during cancer treatment.
To increase calories, add ¼ cup dried fruit on top
To decrease calories, decrease the amount of honey & granola used