Celeb Chef's Nonprofit Provides Homemade Meals + Human Connection To LA's Houseless Community

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Celebrity plant-based chef Nicole Derseweh has a lot on her plate. She received an education at Le Cordon Bleu—there were only two other female chefs in her program at the time—and is the co-author of The Vegan Ketogenic Diet Cookbook, along with Whitney Lauritsen.

In 2019, Nicole started The Martha Project—a nonprofit organization that feeds plant-based meals in eco-friendly packaging to the houseless community of Los Angeles.

"The reason why we're saying houseless instead of homeless," Nicole explains, is that "homeless is saying, 'You're not a part of us. You're other than society. This is not your home.' And that's not true. America is their home, planet Earth is their home, LA is their home, New York is their home. They just don't have a house. So they're houseless. But they are a part of us. This is their home and they are our neighbor."

Nicole named The Martha Project after her grandma Martha, "because she was always helping support other members of the community and feeding everyone and expressing her love through food."

"The kind of meals that we're handing out really vary based on the season and what we're able to get our hands on, but I love to do fun dishes. We've done chili lime stir fry, we've done veggie love burritos, we've had mediterranean plates and full Thanksgiving spreads with cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. Anything you can really imagine that's delicious, satiating and also healthy," Nicole says. 

"When we started this project, I was surprised to see how many houseless people were really excited to receive plant-based meals…to get a home-cooked meal that's healthy and nutritious," she says. "I think it's really important to take care of the most vulnerable members of our society."

More than just serving meals, The Martha Project is about "restoring dignity through human connection," Nicole explains. "When we go out there, I really encourage all of our volunteers to make eye contact, to connect with the people that we're serving, letting them know that we love them, we see them and that we made this homemade meal just for them."

"Unfortunately we've seen a huge rise in the houseless community's numbers over the past year with Covid, so many people losing their jobs. It literally could be your neighbor that was just living next door. It could be any one of us," Nicole says. "We've ramped up our numbers significantly and we want to continue even stronger."

To help Nicole and her team of volunteers continue serving the houseless community in LA, Wickles Pickles is giving The Martha Project $10,000. See Nicole's reaction to the great news in the video above. 🧡

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