For two difficult days, Bailey Sissom thought she had cancer. As she waited for test results, she thought a lot about her husband and their three boys, ages 9, 6, and 15 months. Of course she had the usual worries about how they would cope emotionally. But she was struck by how overwhelmed she was thinking about how they would manage the practical, day-to-day stuff while she was in treatment—especially dinner.
Luckily, the test results came back normal. But the Nicholasville, Kentucky mom couldn't stop thinking about what her family could've gone through—and what so many already were. She saw on ad on social media for an organization that donates free housecleaning for families dealing with a cancer diagnosis, and that's when inspiration struck. There was a tangible, practical way she could help those families also: She could help feed them.
Sissom, who writes the food blog Simply Sissom, decided to make a month's worth of freezer meals for a family whose mom or dad was going through cancer treatment. She figured that while some families have neighbors and friends to bring meals, not everyone does, and there are days when it's nice to have privacy at dinnertime, too. So she put a call out on Facebook, asking if anyone knew of such a family in the community and ended up with 33.
I can't offer a cure, but I can help eliminate some of the stress by providing healthy family meals.
"The number of people who reached out for help was heartbreaking," she remembers.
She chose three families and sent out another Facebook request, this time for donations for groceries. Her expenses were covered within 24 hours. Ditto for volunteers to help make the meals, including a local high school cheerleading squad that needed service hours for school. "The community has been amazing," she says.
Together they prepped and packaged 75 freezer meals, from lasagna and chili to vegetable soup and burritos. And since most families don't have room in their freezers for that many meals, Sissom also secured three donated chest freezers to loan to the families. "I love cooking and meal prepping, so it was a natural fit to use that gift to serve others," she says.
Courtesy of Bailey Sissom Volunteers working with Simply Serving.
The project was so successful—and rewarding—that Sissom has decided to turn it into a non-profit called Simply Serving so she can help even more families. To raise money, she's teaching kids' cooking classes, with all proceeds going towards groceries for the meals (it costs her about $600 for each freezer full of meals). She's also working with a dietitian to make sure her recipes meet the nutritional needs of someone in cancer treatment—and taste good to the whole family.
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"A parent's natural instinct is to care for their family. I can't imagine the burden of keeping up with day-to-day tasks while going through medical treatments that make you sick, or while fighting an illness that exhausts you," says Sissom. "I can't offer a cure, but I can help eliminate some of the stress by providing healthy family meals."
To make a donation to Simply Serving, visit the Simply Serving Fundly page.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a Contributing Editor for Parents magazine and a registered dietitian who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition, a "no-judgement zone" all about feeding a family. She is the author of The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids and Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.