A former fashion consultant, Ann Ogden Gaffney realized after her treatment that her heart was no longer in seasonal colors and hemline trends. Instead, she wanted to help people with cancer and their families cook and care for themselves. In 2007, the nonprofit organization Cook for Your Life was born. Its programs have received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and have been embraced by prestigious organizations such as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Mount Sinai Health System, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in New York City, and more. Cook for Your Life has touched hundreds of thousands of lives. In 2015, Gaffney delivered her very first highly anticipated cookbook, based on Cook for Your Life’s classes. Her cookbook was nominated for a James Beard Award.
A Word from Ann
I came from a family of chefs and bakers, and have been cooking since I was 12 years old. I love spending time in the kitchen preparing meals, tweaking recipes, and discovering new ways to enjoy the delicious foods around us.
Then I got cancer—twice! And that changed everything.In my career as a fashion designer, I traveled extensively—Italy, Japan, China, Korea—and lived in Paris and London before settling in New York. My global travels fed my curiosity about food and expanded my cooking repertoire.
During my second bout with cancer, I realized that my cooking skills were helping me to navigate the side effects of treatment better than most of my fellow patients in the chemo suite. I started sharing tips and recipes with them, which a year later morphed into my first free cooking class.
The Beginning of Cook For Your LIFE
I held my first cooking class for 15 breast cancer patients at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center. It was an amazing experience on many levels. None of the women cooked, or if they did, believed that they did so poorly.The women were divided into 3 groups, each cooking a different menu of simple, healthy dishes featuring fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, fish, and other cancer risk-reducing foods. With a bit of guidance, all the women cooked, and the result was presented in an elaborate buffet.
When the women saw the appetizing meals that THEY had prepared, their sense of joy was palpable. I realized then that I could help others with cancer take a first step toward healthy eating by teaching them basic cooking skills. The rush I experienced from watching these women take joy in their achievement of cooking a healthy meal, and realizing that I helped them get there…that’s when I knew that this was what I wanted to do. This was the day that Cook for Your LIFE was born.
Since then, we have grown to reach more than 3.5 million people through our subscription-free website and serve over 10,000 cancer patients through our work with major NYC hospital systems and cancer organizations in the tri-state area.
We also have a long-term collaboration with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health on NIH-funded projects that explore the dietary behaviors of cancer survivors. I have presented at cancer conferences nationwide and co-authored several peer-reviewed papers on these studies, which validate the effectiveness of Cook For Your LIFE’s healthy cooking and eating programs.
We are excited to launch a new collaboration with researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, home of the oldest cancer prevention program in the United States. Stay tuned for details!