By BRADEN LAMMERS
Ten Clark County residents are getting some food for thought — literally.
The group learned the recipe, techniques and nutritional value of making a breakfast burrito and fruit salad Wednesday morning. But it’s not an instructional cooking class. It is part of a six-week course hosted by the Center for Lay Ministries and Dare to Care food bank.
The program, called Cooking Matters, is part of a national initiative — and an outgrowth of the No Kid Hungry campaign — to teach families the skills to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals. It also helps teach participants to shop smarter and make healthier choices for meals. The program is a collaboration between Share Our Strength the Walmart Foundation and local program partners.
“What we’re trying to get them to do is make lifestyle changes,” said Micki Byrd, field nutrition assistant with the Purdue University Extension office.
Making that lifestyle change goes beyond telling the participants what to do, it’s about helping them make the right decisions and have the confidence to do it.
“It’s like any other skill, you don’t want to take a chance, you don’t want to push the button in case [you’re] wrong,” said Deborah Henderson, with Center for Lay Ministries.
But it becomes even more important for those in need or on a fixed budget.
“If you don’t have that much to work with, you’re going to go for the sure shot,” Henderson said. “This gives them the opportunity to go, ‘yeah, I can do that.’”
It’s already paid off for several participants in the class.
Melissa Saylor, a mother of three, said she has learned a lot, even though she’s done a fair amount of cooking before. She said the classes helped her have a better shopping experience and not spend as much money. And she said she’s learned new recipes.
“I’ve never really cooked a lot with spices,” Saylor said.
She said she made a jambalaya recipe she learned in the class and said her kids really liked it and kept coming back to the table for more. It also had unintended, but positive consequences.
“They help me cook more,” Saylor said of her kids. “It’s kind of brought us together.”
Jonn Frey, a retired chef and the volunteer teaching the cooking portion of the classes, said the volunteers are not necessarily teaching the participants how to cook, but rather showing how to cook and giving a little bit of hands-on experience with nutrition.
“They seem to discover with these meals, everybody fills up and they feel full longer,” Frey said. “[And] we try to introduce a little bit of variety.”
Frey explained that the idea behind the 68 recipes in a book provided to the class’ participants are to find an economical way and healthy way to fill up on food. Each meal is designed to feed four to six people and total less than $10 for the entrees.
It is helping to expand options and stretch dollars.
“I didn’t realize you could do the same thing with leg quarters that you do with the whole chicken,” said Deborah Winn, a class participant. “When you go to the food pantries, you always get a lot of leg quarters and you don’t want to fry them. They give you ways to use the less expensive part of the chicken.”
She added that because she is following the recipes learned in the class, she has also been losing weight.
The class also allows people to see different foods not be intimidated by something they may not be familiar with. But its also making the familiar more approachable.
“I’m a man, I can cook meat, I can grill, but they showed me how to get salads in and incorporate it into my meal,” said Kevin Anderson, a member of the class. “I cooked a little before, but I can get a little more technical with some of the things now,”
He said he has learned new procedures on cooking, making the process easier and making him more likely to take it on.
“I wasn’t real good at cutting up chickens and things like that, they showed me different techniques, a whole lot of shortcuts; it makes me feel like doing it now,” he said.
Byrd added that part of the educational component is talking about how a plate should look at each meal, including portion size and the amount of each food group should be on the plate. This week the class will go to the grocery store and go through a shopping trip to learn how to read nutritional labels and reinforce the healthy choices, on a budget.
When you compare the $3 bag of chips to a $3 bag of apples, you get a lot more with the bag of apples, Byrd said.
“All of these people have different reasons for being here, and [it’s great] just to touch their lives, and let them actually see that this isn’t a hard thing to do,” she said.FOR MORE INFORMATION
• Visit cookingmatters.org/what-we-do or daretocare.org/about_us/programs/cooking-matters
To donate to Dare to Care, visit daretocare.org or call 502-966-3821