Maria KaridisJul 11, 2013, 11:39 amJul 12, 2013, 1:00 pm

Volunteers cook up extra support for cancer patients

Local business expands free meal delivery program

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A volunteer from Eisai, Inc. makes a Magnolia Meals at Home delivery to a breast cancer patient in Tenafly.
Photo:Courtesy of Magnolia Meals at Home
Who is eligible?


Breast cancer patients must meet at least one of the following criteria to qualify for the Magnolia Meals at Home program.

- Currently undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapy

- Underwent chemotherapy or radiation therapy in the last three months

- Have been discharged from a hospital (admission was breast cancer related) in the last three months

- Receiving adjuvant or neoadjuvant treatment

This can include men or women diagnosed with breast cancer.

There are no requirements for financial need to participate in the program. Income is negligible. The program also services Rockland and Westchester counties in New York.

For more information on how to sign up, visit the program's website.

A New Jersey company is expanding the scope of its benevolent services.

A program that provides free meals to breast cancer patients and their families is now accommodating residents beyond Bergen County, offering services in Essex and Passaic as well.

Eisai pharmaceutical group, which has a research facility and U.S. headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, is the program’s sponsor. Eisai employees, along with support from other organizations, volunteer to deliver meals to patients’ homes as to socialize with them and “better understand their needs, feelings, and how we can help,” the company proclaims on its website.

Magnolia Meals at Home – a joint effort between Magnolia (the Eisai Women’s Oncology Program), Meals on Wheels Association of America, CancerCare and The Cancer Support Community – helped over 350 families in its first year. The program is now in its second year.

With resounding amounts of positive feedback and lots of breast cancer patients just beyond Bergen County lines that have sought support, Eisai agreed to fund expansion and all of the involved organizations jumped on board, said Kathy Nugent, Director of Social Service at CancerCare.

How it works

Once a month for two months, volunteers visit a patient’s home to deliver 10 frozen meals for the patient, as well as 10 more for family members – should any of them share the abode. Someone must be home to receive the delivery and the drop-off times are pre-arranged between the patient and volunteers.

A label listing every meal’s ingredients, in case of food allergies or preferences, is affixed to container, as is its expiration date.

Come delivery time, afflicted patients, particularly on days they are undergoing chemotherapy treatments, needn’t worry about preparing meals for themselves or their family members, Nugent explained. They can simply pull a meal out of the freezer and heat it up.

“They’re not really in the best shape to stand in front of a stove, cooking. So the concept was to help them not only by providing meals so they didn’t have to do all that leg work themselves, but also to make sure their nutrition is built up so they don’t end up back in the hospital,” added Larry Tomayko, Meals on Wheels Association of America’s chief of staff.

The meals, he explained, are nutritionally sound and catered to the needs of breast cancer patients.

Deliveries may be extended beyond the two-month period on a case-by-case request.

Making a difference

One of the first phone calls Nugent received after the program launched was from a mother with breast cancer that had felt badly because she didn’t have the energy to prepare nutritious meals for her daughter. Her husband, away on business frequently, was unavailable to help.

“She was referred to us by a local hospital and she was thrilled,” Nugent explained. The mother no longer had to feel guilty or stressed about her daughter eating instant macaroni and cheese everyday, she added.

Many older breast cancer patients who live alone have benefited immensely from the program, she added. They tend to have more difficulty managing their treatments and just don’t feel well enough to shop for and prepare food all of the time. Magnolia Meals at Home provides respite.

“I’m hopeful that as we continue, we can branch out into other states as well,” Tomayko said of the program. “I think the chances of that are pretty good because we’re getting really good feedback from the patients.”

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