Mastering The Art Of Healthy Cooking

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Betty Howell, of Warsaw, had a healthy meal during her first of six Share Our Strength Cooking Matters classes scheduled by University Extension and held on Friday, February 21 at the First United Methodist Church of Warsaw. 
“I enjoyed the class and was able to take home food to prepare a meal of pasta, roasted vegetables and salad, the same meal we ate and learned how to prepare during class,” said Howell. “I was even allowed to take my personal care attendant with me to class.”
Classes meet for two hours once a week for six weeks and are team-taught by a volunteer chef and nutrition educator. The lessons cover meal preparation, grocery shopping, food budgeting and nutrition. Participants practice fundamental food skills, including proper knife techniques, reading ingredient labels, cutting up a whole chicken, and making a healthy meal for a family of four on a $10 budget.
“These classes are being offered as part of United States Department of Agriculture”s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP -- formerly known as food stamps), said Susan Jones-Hard, County Engagement Specialist in Nutrition and Health Education at the Henry County Extension. “SNAP benefits are given each month on a plastic card called an EBT card that works like a debit card. SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. The Cooking Matters classes are offered at a variety of community-based agencies – including Head Start centers, housing centers and after-school programs – with neighborhood locations that make it easy for families to attend.
In 2014 Share Our Strength engaged Altarum Institute to conduct a national, long-term Course Impact Evaluation that concluded in 2015. There were more than 1,600 participants and the study showed marked improvements in nutrition. Participants were more confident in their cooking abilities and saw fewer barriers to making healthy, affordable meals. They were making more healthier and budget-friendly decisions, were eating more vegetables, and reaching for low-sodium options 11 percent of the time. Participants looked for low-fat dairy options nine percent of the time and lean protein and whole grains eight percent of the time.