Community Cooking: Wholesome Eating on a Budget brings nutrition education directly to the people who need it most: clients of emergency food programs. The program is held on site at our member agencies and is designed to help their clients create healthier meals on a tight budget, with a focus on balance, moderation and variety.
In addition to offering learning experiences for clients, the Food Bank also trains staff and volunteers at our member agencies, so they can extend these opportunities to more people.
Community Cooking is a flexible program, designed to meet various levels of interest and availability among those we serve. Regardless of the length of the learning experience, we always focus on four key areas:
- Nutrition (following the USDA's guidelines for healthy eating)
- Healthy Cooking
- Food Safety
- Food Budgeting
The Eight-Week Program
This in-depth course, held once a week, gives participants hands-on experience as they cook and sample a different healthy recipe each week, using food typically available at food pantries. During classroom time, the instructor targets a particular aspect of nutrition and provides tips on shopping and budgeting to help participants make the most of their food dollars. At the end of each class, each participant leaves with the ingredients for the day's recipe so they can put their new skills to work at home.
Some of the topics include:
- Good Grains
- The Value of Vegetables
- Filling Up with Fruit
- Mooving on to Milk
- Choosing Lean Protein
- Facts about Fact
One-Time Lesson Plans
Some clients may not be able to commit to an 8-week program, so we offer one-time workshops on a variety of topics. Interactive, hands-on activities help people to learn new cooking and shopping techniques in an hour or less that will improve their ability to feed their families.
In addition to our formal workshops, we also do "pop in" lessons at food pantries -- the perfect diversion when someone is waiting in line for their food. What can you do in just a few minutes? Learn to make salsa! Find out how much sugar is in your beverage choice. Understand how to use portion control. All useful skills that can be acquired in just a few minutes.
For a complete menu of Community Cooking program offerings, click here.
Interns Broaden the Reach of Community Cooking
Two college interns have been assisting the Community Cooking program, enabling us to broaden our reach to member agencies.
Rotha Ok, a student in Rhode Island College's community health education program, is teaching our new children’s nutrition education program, the "OrganWise Guys."
This unique program emphasizes the importance of eating healthy and daily physical activity for children through the understanding of their vital organs. The program is currently being taught at Kids Cafe sites, childcare centers and family shelters. The one-hour lesson is adapted to meet the age range of participants in grades pre K – 5.
Trevor Daneker, a culinary nutrition major at Johnson & Wales University, is creating a menu planning workshop for community meal sites.
In addition to developing a wide range of new meals, he will be teaching sites how to develop budget-friendly menus that dovetail with the nutritional needs of the population they are serving (typically very low income and often homeless). Other elements of this project include 25 easy recipes under a $1.00 per portion, a brochure, and recipe costing analysis cards to be given to each member who takes the workshop in the end of April.
Trevor is also assisting with our 8-week cooking and nutrition program.
Empowering People Through Nutrition Education
"This is the kind of class you would think of as an East Side thing -- not a South Side thing." That's how John Freitas recalls feeling when he first signed up for the 8-week Community Cooking class at the Salvation Army on Broad Street. He had a good reason to join. As a formerly homeless person who now lives in his own apartment, he wanted to improve his health, stick to a budget, and show other homeless friends that it could be done.
"Ignorance is the biggest enemy for a homeless person," he said. "I always equated eating healthy with spending a lot of money -- you know, the better cuts of meat, the better this and that. I'm finding out that brown rice is very good -- it's what you put into it -- the vegetables."
John's friend, Barbara Kalil, shares the experience of having been homeless. Now that she's in her own apartment, she wants to learn new ways of cooking. "I think people have this idea that if you have to stretch your food by adding vegetables, it's not going to taste good," she says. "I've found that it enhances the food. I love vegetables now. I love all the different things we can do with them. I really didn't know what to expect with this course but it has turned out to be fantastic. We really look forward to coming every week."
Barbara and John have both watched homeless friends move into an apartment, only to fall back into homelessness because they didn't know how to budget their money.
"It's sad," says Barbara. "They go right back into the same situation. But once you give people the information and show them that it's not scary, they might like it. It's so hard for anybody, but especially someone who's homeless, to treat yourself in a kind way. It's hard to think that you're worthy of eating fresh foods. So this is one way you can treat yourself. You can cook well for your family, and even just for yourself. Then, when you're in your own home, you can shop sensibly and eat well."