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Drive set to ‘fill freezer’ for cancer patients

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Herring House

The Herring Guest House is a home away from home for cancer patients to stay and avoid a commute when undergoing chemo or radiation therapy.

A food collection set for Tuesday will help “fill the freezer” at the Herring House, a home away from home for patients and their families that have to travel for cancer treatment.

Caring for Our Community, an organization at Providence St. Mary Regional Medical Center, has set the event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday at Providence Southgate Medical Park, 1025 S. Second Ave.

Community members are invited to drop off frozen food items that will go Herring House, which was donated to Providence St. Mary Medical Center by Virginia Herring and is funded through the Providence St. Mary Foundation’s Herring House Fund.

It is a five-bedroom guest house apart of the hospital campus, used for cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation therapy who have to commute. The house was used for 42 stays in October and averages 25 stays per month depending on the month, according to Alex Hoffarth, a social worker at Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center.

The organization hopes to have enough donations to provide six months of food for cancer patients to eat when they are staying at the Herring House, said Patti Lennartson, volunteer services coordinator at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

Only frozen prepackaged food on the signup list is accepted. No fresh produce or home cooked meals will be accepted due to spoiling and liability. There are still around 30 slots available for the frozen foods needed, according to the event page.

The list of food was created by the hospitals executive chef, Norman Shaw, specifically for cancer patients who are going through chemo or radiation therapy.

Shaw came up with a list of breakfast, lunch and dinner prepackaged frozen meals that were considered very healthy and nutritious for cancer patients and would help them keep up their energy. He went through a long list of prepackaged food and shortened it with healthy alternatives, Lennartson said.

“One of the things he says is to have people bring frozen fruit like mango chunks and berries, that sort of stuff is perfect,” said Lennartson. “Sometimes chemotherapy causes mouth sores and eating is really hard, they don’t want to eat certain things so he’s got a wide variety of meals.”

Chemotherapy changes the way food tastes, for some radiation patients its really important that they keep their nutritional up and keep their weight up as they are going through treatment,” Hoffarth said.

The food on the list is specific to food that can be found at local grocery stores.

“I thought it’s just a nice quick easy thing for someone to do on a Tuesday. They do their regular grocery shopping, pick up these extra things and drop them off at the campus, boom done,” the volunteer services coordinator said.

She thinks it’s a nice bonus for patients so that when they are feeling their worst and don’t want to have to worry about going shopping, they don’t have to go anywhere.

Hoffarth said she can’t imagine that the food wouldn’t be used.

“I have patients who come in and their spouse sometimes will drop them off and they’re stuck, they have to walk to the grocery store and the closest grocery store is probably Safeway and that’s not close,” Hoffarth said. “This way they don’t have to call for a delivery of some sort of fast meal and then pay for that.”

Lennartson also mentions that it saves them a taxi ride.

They will be conducting a needs assessment with feedback from cancer patients to plan other events like this one for the future. They will try to do one every other month like a food drive or yard cleanup for cancer patients at Providence St. Mary.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.