PHOENIX — Jennifer Caraway spends her Friday afternoons driving from home to home in the Valley. She brings food to nearly a dozen cancer patients every week.
“A lot of the people that I bring food to don’t have anyone there to help them or take care of them,” Caraway said.
Caraway, of Phoenix, believes a well-cooked meal can be as powerful as medicine. “That’s what I do, I cook. I think you can bring so much goodness to somebody with your creations in the kitchen.”
Caraway has run the Joy Bus since 2011. The not-for-profit organization is named after her friend Joy, who died after a long battle with cancer. Though the organization has a board, Caraway is essentially the Joy Bus.
“I finally was able to get all of the paperwork together. We took the name reservation form for the ACC over to Joy and she was able to see it and know what we were doing.”
The chef-inspired meals that Caraway prepares and serves to her clients are made with fresh, local ingredients. The fruits and vegetables are donated by Frank Martin, owner of Crooked Sky Farms in Phoenix.
Martin said the food he’s donating is healthy and nutritional. “We probably do like 120 different types of greens during the winter time: root crops and beets and Swiss chard and collards.”
Martin and his team pick some of their best produce for Caraway every week.
“It seemed like it was a really good cause,” Martin said. “My father had cancer and I think that was eventually what killed him and I think that everybody has some degree of relatives that are battling with it.”
For all her access to good, healthy ingredients, Caraway doesn’t cook any of the farm food for her family. In fact, Caraway said she can get so busy feeding others, she forgets to feed herself sometimes. It’s not uncommon for her to eat fast food after spending hours making extravagant meals for the cancer patients on her route.
Or spending time with families of those on her list.
Every week Caraway meets with Mindy Figueroa, the daughter of one of Caraway’s former patrons, who recently passed away.
“[Caraway] considers a person as family, as her own. She hurts just like we hurt and that’s what makes her way different than anyone else.”
Figueroa said her father loved Caraway and her meals meant the world to him.
“He really appreciated Jen for everything she did. No matter what, she will always be family to us, regardless of if he’s here or not.”
Despite the pain of losing five from her circle since last December, Caraway said she plans to keep making the deliveries.
“There becomes a really strong bond and you just get drawn in and you become part of their lives and it’s really cool.”