- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
Cooking with just salt and butter wasn’t enough for Nancy Walker. It wasn’t until she enrolled in a holistic cooking program at Bauman College that she learned how to put love into food. Walker then decided to create The Wellness Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing food, resources, and education for people recovering from illness or looking to improve their health.
“Our belief is to change the environment within you so the disease doesn’t have the opportunity to regrow,” Walker said. “Processed foods do nothing for the fight against cancer.”
The Wellness Kitchen originally opened in October 2010, but it moved to its current location at 1255 Las Tablas Road. Ste.102 in June 2012. Being in the middle of Templeton’s medical district, patients can purchase gluten-free, dairy-free lunches from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or just relax in the lounge area.
“As a nonprofit, it’s important to have people just come in and not feel like they have to purchase anything,” Walker said. “Instead of the waiting room, come here.”
Walker said people recovering from sickness need a variety of smaller, flavor-filled portion sizes. Because they have a limited appetite, Walker said “every bite counts.” Wellness foods are gluten-free, dairy-free, and organic dishes that anybody can order. Transitional foods, like soup or porridge, contain less citrus and spices so people with mouth sores or problems with digesting can easily eat them. Healing foods are prepared for those in critical need.
The menu for pickup and lunch changes each week under the direction of Walker or Janice Devine-Patterson, the lunch program manager. Menus can be found online or in the store. Every week there is a soup, grain, or vegetable salad, main dish, main vegetarian dish, and a dessert. The kitchen buys food from local farmers and tries to stick with organic products. Clients place orders in person, over the phone or online by midnight on Sunday. They pick it up Wednesday either at the kitchen or Natural Foods Co-op in San Luis Obispo.
Dishes range from $7 to $16. Clients also pay a $4 deposit for the glass container the food comes in. They are refunded when the container is returned.
Walker also hosts several education classes, such as Cancer Fighting Nutrition, Therapeutic Nutrition, and Cooking for Individuals with Cancer. Other classes are available for those seeking to live a healthier lifestyle.
The kitchen will soon provide a teen orientation program where 15- to 19-year-olds learn how to cook and handle food properly. The program will continue throughout the school year.
Walker has a three-way series where she takes one ingredient and shows three ways to cook with it. Pricing can be found online, but it ranges $20 to $70. Guest instructors include Holistic Health Practitioner Stephanie Austin, Botanicals for the Hope CEO Kimberly Luker, and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner Paula Vetter.
The Wellness Kitchen has a “Pay It Forward” donation program. A glass jar stands near the cash register so customers can donate instead of leaving a tip. Walker said one of the volunteers decided to sponsor a regular client’s meals for awhile. That client later stopped by with a $100 check to pay for someone else’s meals. Many other clients give back through donations as well once they are healthier, Walker said.
The Pay it Forward program funds the Healing Foods program, which is the main focus of the kitchen. These nutrient-dense and mineral rich foods are given to people who are in critical need, such as a person who is not digesting well or recovering from chemotherapy. Clients must apply and qualify to receive these foods at little to no cost. Walker said they can supply clients in critical condition with food for three months. After that time, they check in and see if they still need assistance or not.
Besides the Pay it Forward program, The Wellness Kitchen holds a fundraiser the last Thursday of every month called “Soul Kitchen.” For a suggested $20 donation, attendees can enjoy a live performance, wine tasting, and a light dinner. The next Soul Kitchen is July 25 with Damon Castillo’s Band as the entertainment. Cass Winery and Opolo Vineyards will provide wine. All of the proceeds go directly to The Wellness Kitchen.
Since its first opening in 2010, the kitchen has had 225 volunteer hours put in by 37 volunteers.
For more information about The Wellness Kitchen, call 434-800 or go to thewkrc.org.
San Luis Obispo Powell’s Sweet Shoppe is partnering with San Luis Obispo County United Blood Services to hold a blood drive at 995 Higuera St. Friday, July 26 from 2 to 6 p.m. Donors will be given a pint of candy for every pint of blood given. Donors need to sign up at the Shoppe prior to the event and bring their ID the day of the drive. For more information, contact Miranda Battenburg at 712-1362 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intern Alicia Canales compiled this week’s Strokes. Send your business and nonprofit news to email@example.com.