As food banks struggle to keep up, these CNN heroes get food for those in need

To ensure those in need don’t stay hungry, two CNN heroes have stepped up their efforts in recent months.

Cathryn Couch and her non-profit organization, Ceres community project, prepare and deliver healthy meals for low-income residents facing cancer and other serious illnesses in Northern California. Since 2007, they have distributed more than 665,000 meals.

As the pandemic broke out, it became clear that people with basic medical conditions were at higher risk.

“The Covid epidemic has significantly increased the demand for our services,” said Couch, a 2016 CNN hero. “It’s really important that this population stays at home and stay safe.”

To meet demand, Couch says her organization has more than doubled the number of people it supports. For recipients facing food insecurity, the group has more than doubled the number of weekly meals it provides.

“The clients we use are very medically sensitive, vulnerable. Many of them live alone. Many of them have lost carers due to the pandemic,” she said. “That population has the potential for the most complications and mortality if they get the disease.”

The nonprofit now also provides meals to people with Covid-19. And the group coordinates with local counties and health centers to serve Medicaid patients who need additional nutritional support.

The meals the group prepares are specifically tailored to the nutritional needs of the client’s illness, Couch said.

“Everything is made from scratch. We are finished in 100% organic and source as much local content as possible.”

In downtown Dallas, in 2018, CNN Hero Chad Houser is conducting Café Momentum, A non-profit restaurant provides employment, educational support and career counseling to young people coming out of juvenile detention.

Due to the pandemic, Houser temporarily closed the restaurant and, with the help of its program participants, turned the space into an emergency food distribution center.

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“We really redirected the mission by listening to the community,” Houser said. “We have received many calls from people asking for help in the special feeding of insecure students who are addicted to school meals for their basic nutritional needs.”

In the United States more 30 million children rely on free or subsidized school lunchesWhen schools across the country closed in the middle of Covid-19, many were in danger of remaining hungry.
Chad Houser has turned his non-profit restaurant space into an emergency food distribution center.

Since March, Houser program participants have been setting up boxes filled with food. They donate the boxes to a local school district that distributes them to students in need.

These efforts also enable Houser and his team to continuously assist young men and women in their program.

“So much so that as an organization we focus on providing … (a) a stable and consistent support ecosystem,” Houser said. “It has also continued to bring them income. When we have millions of people looking for unemployment, it’s one minor issue they have to deal with.”

The project also provides these young adults with a way to return to their community.

“They are doing a great job stepping up to the board in this time of crisis,” Houser said. “So many of them went to school where meals go. They lived in the neighborhood where meals go. And that’s a full opportunity for them to circle.”

It is an opportunity that ultimately expands the mission.

“Dealing with anything, even a global pandemic, begins at the community level,” Houser said. “It all starts with a community that gathers around itself. It starts with a community that holds itself accountable to both of them.”

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