“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
Although that wisdom may have been come from the father of medicine in the fourth century B.C., “food is medicine” is a personal mantra for Patti Brown, executive director of Wellness Within, a Roseville nonprofit cancer center.
“But it doesn’t have to taste like medicine,” Brown said. The marriage and family therapist has spent the past seven years helping cancer patients get better through the mind-body pathway, offering support groups and classes on nutrition education, meditation and mindfulness, healing movement and expressive arts. She went back to school at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., to get her certification in that field.
“I listen for themes,” she said, to decide what programs to offer. “Nourish” is an overriding theme of Wellness Within, and although many of the classes do a lot for the mind and soul, she’d like to do more for the taste buds, too.
A nutritionist, Diane Giuliani, teaches some cooking classes and lectures on strengthening the body’s immune system during cancer treatment and recovery.
“I want everyone to learn how to make good food taste good, too. I want to empower cancer patients to get their food to work for them, to heal their bodies,” Brown said.
The center offers all of its services for free.
From the outside, it looks like a Craftsman cottage in an urban neighborhood. Inside, with its muted colors and soft music, it feels like a sanctuary from any chaos that might be going on outside or within. It’s not that big, but there’s a workroom with good natural light, a quiet, darkened space for small group meetings, and a small, well-appointed kitchen.
The lobby of Wellness Within has a lending library; several copies of “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press, 2010, 234 pages) are on a top shelf. Its author, Rebecca Katz, is on the nonprofit’s advisory board.
“Ninety percent of the people we serve – and a lot of them are moms with kids – are going through a diet shift (after being diagnosed with cancer) so how we support them is critical.”
Many would eat more organic, locally grown vegetables if only they weren’t so expensive and they knew how to cook more varieties. “And we live in absolutely the best place to do that,” Brown said.
For quite some time, Brown said, she has wanted to provide boxes of vegetables to cancer patients, both to help them eat more nutritiously and to support local farmers.
“The assault on the mind and body (of cancer patients) is huge. If we can eliminate any of those stressors and make it fun and enjoyable, it’s a win for us,” Brown said.
All Book of Dreams donations are tax-deductible, and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs.
Needed: Four Community Supported Agriculture boxes to send home with clients each week, rotating people through Wellness Within’s nutritional program to increase its impact on the wider population, and additional cooking classes to show clients how to prepare the seasonal produce that is being distributed.