The Joy Bus Nourishes Valley Cancer Patients with Love and Good Food; Interview with Founder Jennifer Caraway

Article by Jennifer Woods, written for Good Food Finder.

We're naming Jennifer Caraway, President of the not-for-profit The Joy Bus as one of our Good Food Heroes.  She created The Joy Bus in 2011 response to watching her dear friend Joy struggle and eventually lose her battle with cancer in February of last year.  The Joy Bus prepares nutritious meals using local foods (as much as possible) and delivers them to those who cannot pick up.  She has managed to get this all done for the patients...for FREE.

Jennifer Caraway

The Joy Bus is a not-for-profit organization whose sole purpose is to relieve the daily struggles of homebound cancer patients with a fresh chef-inspired meal and a friendly face

We got a chance to catch up with Jennifer recently to learn more about her experience in preparing good food for other in the Valley who are often alone and not able to make the good food that helps them rally from such powerful cancer treatments that not only fight the cancer, but usually fight the rest of the body, too.

How does it feel to see people who are so sick also be able to have healthful "meals and a friendly face?"

It's definitely emotional. My daughter asked me why I chose to do something that makes me cry on a regular basis. Quite possibly, I am a masochist. All kidding aside, it is truly amazing to make someone's day. I will say, that a lot of the tears I shed are happy ones. When you are faced with such a terrifying battle it is truly breathtaking to see such graciousness and strength.

I have turned a few of my patients off by the food in the beginning (a good majority of society are meat and potatoes eaters) but after trying the food, they LOVE it! OR at least that's what they tell me.

How is The Joy Bus funded?

We are funded by donations only.  Hopefully down the road we may qualify for some grants but as it is now, just kind souls visiting our website and donating. Every thing that is donated goes directly into the operation. No salaries or pension programs here! It has been difficult and we continually struggle but I will NOT ever get to a place where we need to charge someone who is already struggling for help.

"It's definitely emotional. My daughter asked me why I chose to do something that makes me cry on a regular basis."

How do you source your food?

Crooked Sky Farms! I cannot sing their praises enough! They are such a HUGE blessing!  I was stalking a few different local farms in the beginning to try and get them on board with no luck.  I saw the Crooked Sky Farms booth at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market and approached the two very nice ladies working the table. Within two days Lori from Crooked Sky Farms gave me a call and they have been donating weekly since. Frank (of Crooked Sky Farms) is such a generous human and jumped at the opportunity to help heal those in need with his amazing produce:) I really can't imagine what we would have done without their help. The plan was to nourish the community by supporting one another on a local level and thanks to Crooked Sky Farms, we are on our way!

 What inspires your meals?

Whatever beautiful produce I get donated that week. I usually plan everything around what is donated.

How many recipients are there now?
We currently have 11 peeps -- ranging in ages from 8-80.


Can people volunteer with The Joy Bus?
Yes, PLEASE.  We would love the help delivering the meals. We are currently delivering food all over the valley and we could always use the help!

 Is there room for more patients/customers?
 I really do not want to turn anyone away, so we will ALWAYS figure out a way to help.


Full disclosure: Jennifer Woods has worked with Crooked Sky Farms over the last few years and learned about The Joy Bus from one of their tweets.  She was interested in learning more about such an important program as one of her best friends has fought cancer recently, too.