The Martha Project was founded by Nicole Derseweh to honor the legacy of her grandmother Martha Ann. Martha Ann used food as a way to connect and care for those around her.
The Martha Project started in early 2020 as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, when much of the support for the houseless community began to dry up. Since then we’ve been handing out meals and protective equipment and haven’t stopped since. We are small but growing and with your help we can do so much more.
Chef Nicole Derseweh is a best-selling cookbook author, a world-class vegan chef with culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu, a private chef to some of Hollywood’s most famous health-conscious stars and the creator of the Vegan Makeover cooking show on YouTube.
Nicole lives in LA and when she is not busy cooking she loves to hike, enjoy nature, travel to far off lands, tend to her indoor garden and collect vintage fashion.
Many members of the houseless community have fascinating and valuable stories to share. Here’s just a few touching moments from our community.
We had an event on Valentine’s Day. It felt very important to me to honor the houseless community this day. So many people get in their head about whether they’re single or not or what their romantic partner is going to do to express their love to them. The message of this holiday can get commercialized and convoluted.
For me it has always just been about a day of celebration for the love in your life and an extra opportunity to express it, it has never been singularly tied to romance. With this intention of spreading love, myself and the volunteers hit the streets and shared our love themed meal. We were met with so much love and appreciation by those we had the honor of serving and the smiles I witnessed when the receiving individual took in the specialness of being remembered on this day filled my heart with more love then 1000 cheesy valentines dates ever could.
Towards the end of our Valentine’s deliveries I gave a few meals to a group of men who were sitting in the park under a tree and the were so happy to receive, I told them they were loved and wished them a happy Valentine’s Day. As I walked I heard the hammering of steps and a man's voice yell out, “Miss, wait miss, I have something for you.” I turned around and made eye contact with this man I had just fed. With tears in his eyes he said that he really was so touched I showed him love on Valentine’s Day and that he wanted to give me a gift. He told me he didn’t have anything to give but asked me if I’d accept this leaf he picked for me as my Valentine’s gift from him. With tears in my eyes I said of course! Humbled to receive while I observed the desire to give in a man who had so little melted my heart.
When I look at this leaf I’m reminded that Humans are hard wired for love and connection. Humans are good.
So we are doing our rounds and passing out love and food at echo park lake when I happen upon an elder, scholarly type of houseless man. He asked if our food had meat in it and when I told him it was plant based he was excited to receive a meal. When I walked over to his camp to serve him he explained about his care and connection to Mother Earth that led him to stop eating meat for environmental reasons.
He said he has a belief system around energy exchange and could not accept a meal from me unless I would accept a gift from him as well. I obliged not knowing what it might be. He took out a pen and since I’m a chef he said he would write me a recipe, a recipe for life. I’ll tell you I received much more then I gave that day.
If you are in the LA area then you can be a part of The Martha Project by volunteering your time. Simply fill out our volunteer form and you can be a part of the process of cooking and delivering the food.