This year we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary. There are a lot of great things happening at Cook for Your LIFE these days! But for those of you that don’t know us, maybe a little bit of our history is appropriate.
I was originally inspired to create CFYL by the people I’d met during my own cancer treatment – I’m a survivor of 2 unrelated cancers, kidney cancer and triple negative breast cancer. These fellow travelers in cancer were having enormous trouble with eating well, not just because of treatment side effects or special clinical diets, but also with incorporating the healthy foods into their diets that the dietitians were recommending they eat during and post treatment. Now I love to cook and eat. My ‘aha’ moment came when I realized that the reason I was having a lot less problems with eating than my friends were was because I cooked, and felt comfortable experimenting with my food to get it to taste right. The food problems my friends were having basically stemmed from the fact that most of them didn’t cook regularly anymore, an easy trap to fall into. The convenience of prepared and pre-packaged foods seduces us all, but during cancer treatment it’s not easy to find what you need in the supermarket, freezer cabinet or on a restaurant menu.
If not being comfortable with cooking was the problem I knew I could help. In 2007 I created my first free hands-on 101 healthy cooking classes for the cancer community of patients, survivors and caregivers. My goal: to teach them about what healthy foods are and how to cook them into easy, tasty meals: to turn nutrition guidelines into delicious food. Cook For Your LIFE was born. To date we have directly served over 9000 people working with local hospitals and cancer organizations in the New York City Tri-State area.
With the success of our hands-on classes, we debated long and hard on the best way to reach the wider cancer community beyond our local NYC area. We quickly realized that the ideal outreach vehicle would be a website incorporating everything we’d learned from our classes about what patients need and crave from food. Like our hands-on classes, everything on the website would be free.
In 2012 the website launched. We are very proud of it, especially our unique recipe search designed to specifically help the cancer community find exactly what they need without effort. Users can search recipes for specific health considerations for example the bland diet, neutropenia, low fiber, or nausea, and also by food preference: if you are vegetarian or vegan, or have kids you need to feed, you can filter the recipes to fit those needs too.
We made the right decision. The website has proved to be the window into our future, evolving from being an adjunct to our classes to a resource in its own right. We now have over 200,000 unique visitors a month and rising, and to date have served nearly 4 million people touched by cancer. Our recipe library has expanded to include over 1000 tasty dishes thanks to a working collaboration with Drexel University Food lab, we have a blog choc full of info about food and nutrition written by nutritionists and food bloggers, a James Beard nominated cookbook, and last but not least cooking videos, which is a perfect segue into what’s new at CFYL!
We’re going to be celebrating our 10th anniversary this Fall with some great new services for those touched by cancer. The first big news for us is the launch of the CFYL Spanish website. It’s not just a few pages. The entire website has been translated into Spanish, from soup to nuts, literally. We’ve translated the recipes and blogs, and have dubbed all the videos. This didn’t come out of left field for us. We have been building towards it since in 2009 when we started our successful culturally tailored cooking and nutrition programming in Spanish to improve the diet of underserved Hispanic breast cancer survivors. This programming has been funded by Aetna, Susan G. Komen and most recently by our NIH/NCI funded collaboration with Columbia University.
Exciting News, this September!
Another piece of news we’re very excited to tell you about is the launch Cook for Your LIFE-Online! This September we’re going to be able to teach healthy cooking to even more people touched by cancer, by bringing our Cook for Your Life classes online! Just like our in-person classes, each class will start with an introductory chat from Ann about the subject of the class and the dishes to be cooked, followed by a user-friendly program of 3-4 easy recipe videos, to allow our users to learn at their own pace, in their own time, and in their own homes. This is a particular boon for those who are tired from treatment, or for caregivers strapped for time. These free classes will include lessons on basic knife skills, how to prep unfamiliar vegetables, working with special diets, using pantry items – you name it, we’ll be covering it. Ann will even shop the seasonal Greenmarkets for you!