Nutrition and Health for KCRM Women’s Center and You!

When KCRM opened its Women’s Center providing resident recovery for single homeless women with co-occurring disorders, we understood nutrition would play a big part in a holistic approach to addiction recovery and mental health treatment. The way we eat affects the way we feel physically, mentally and emotionally … and for the recovering addict, certain food either aid in relapse prevention or escalate the risk of relapse. In other words, nutrition matters short-term and in the long run for our residents … and for everyone.

This page will inform you about the KCRM Women’s Center’s approach to nutrition and health. If you are a volunteer who provides meals for the Women’s Center, please use the page as you consider what foods and drinks to bring and serve to our residents. If you are donor, this page will help you determine the types of perishable and nonperishable foods you want to provide.

If you have any questions or concerns as you use this page and its references, please contact Kristen Ray at (816) 421-7643 or You can also suggest other links we can add to our page to keep it current, helpful and accurate. Thanks and God bless you!

Sugar on the Brain

Above, Dr. Sherri Vaughn gives a demonstration to the KCRM staff on how the brain responds to emotional trauma.

Sherrie Vaughn, Ed.D.
KCRM Program Director

Sugar is a typical go-to alternative for people seeking drug and alcohol treatment. During recovery, instead of reaching for the crack pipe or a bottle of vodka, the addict reaches for a box of cookies, a bag of candy, a box of donuts, a pie, a candy bar and soda. Sugar serves in this capacity for a reason. It’s called Addiction Transference — and its impact threatens every aspect of recovery.

Brain science has revealed that sugar on the brain mimics the impact and effect of alcohol and drugs on the brain. Drugs and alcohol impact brain chemistry, specifically serotonin (mood regulation hormone) and dopamine (pleasure hormone), by generating triggers for cravings. Sugar acts in the same way, impacting brain chemistry and generating cravings.

But sugar’s negative impact reaches beyond addiction recovery! It also plays a role in our mental health. Research has tied excessive sugar consumption to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, and to worsening symptoms experienced by individuals with schizophrenia.

Further research shows that sugar negatively impacts gut health and causes a hormonal imbalance between the gut and brain. The hormonal imbalance creates inflammation, and inflammation leads to the release of cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress” hormone that alerts our bodies to the fight, flight, or freeze response/reaction. The relationship between excessive sugar and poor gut health convinces our neurotransmitters that we are in a state of stress … chronic stress. And chronic stress increases our risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.

What does this mean to you?

You have the ability to help minimize the risk of Addiction Transference, and encourage the women in KCRM’s resident recovery program toward improved mental and physical health! And it’s as easy as making sure you and your group choose to bring only low-sugar and no-sugar foods and beverages into the Women’s Center. To learn more, visit the links below or contact Kristen Ray, volunteer coordinator at Thanks!

Learn about why choosing the right food and drink matters for women at KCRM and for you.

WebMD Portion Sizes

Learn about portion control and other great dietary information.

KCRM’s Nutrition Pinterest Page

Explore and share easy and nutritious recipes!


Soul Food

A Conversation with Angela Matney, RN

Nurse Angela, left, enjoys the garden at the Women’s Center with Sheila, a WC Resident.

“Three hots and a cot” has long been street vernacular to describe the main services a homeless shelter often provides — three calorie-rich meals and a warm bed for persons who spend most of the day out in the elements.  But Angela Matney, the KCRM Women’s Center staff nurse, says the Women’s Center is a different kind of place.

“We are not an overnight shelter concerned with loading our clients up with calories and carbohydrates because we don’t know where they may be sleeping tomorrow,” Angela (pictured below) explains.  “When a client moves in here, this becomes their home.  Our residents know they will be getting three meals each day and three snacks throughout the day as well.”

Angela recognizes that this requires a different perspective on food preparation.  “These women live and eat here day after day, week after week,” she says, “and, just like you and me, they need to be aware of their protein, calories and fat intake.”

For residents of the Women’s Center, the majority of whom face a co-occurring struggle with addiction and mental health needs, nutrition also influences broader issues of care and recovery.  “Some residents’ drug of choice will keep their metabolisms raised, and they can eat anything and not gain weight,” Angela says.

“Then they come to KCRM and the drugs get out of their systems.  They begin to eat regular meals for the first time in a long time and it can affect their weight and contribute to struggles with self image if those meals aren’t nutritionally sound.”

Other factors contribute to relapse.  “Multiple studies show that too much sugar in the diet can create a higher risk of relapse for persons battling addiction,” she continues.  “By providing well balanced meals and healthy snacks we can help break some of the addiction cycles plaguing our residents.”

Changing old habits is never easy, especially when it comes to healthier eating.  But it isn’t only the Women’s Center residents who must adapt.  KCRM staff and volunteers alike are learning to resist the temptation to serve only comfort foods and sweet desserts that they know make the residents smile.

“Often when volunteers come to serve a meal, it is a special moment for them and they want to make it a special moment for the residents,” Angela says.  “And special moments are celebrated with party food!  It’s great to have pizza and cake or ice cream for a party, but if we would eat like this three or four nights a week, we’d be in trouble!

“We’re asking for help from our wonderful volunteers and donors to help us continue to improve our menu at the Women’s Center and guide our residents into their best health!”