IRC hosted a nutrition and cooking class called Food for Life earlier this spring. The class met once a week for four weeks and was taught was taught by me, Valerie Mosher, IRC’s Contract Dietician! In addition to my work as a dietician, I also have a great deal of experience in the kitchen. I have worked with caterers and have catered myself. I love cooking, especially with fresh ingredients. I wanted to share this love for nutrition and cooking with the IRC community.
How Food for Life Got its Start
One day I ran into Lavinia Johnson, IRC’s Executive Director, and she expressed to me that one of our clients was interested in cooking. It was agreed that this would be a great training to offer to our Consumers who could benefit from learning recipes as well as kitchen skills.
Once I got the plan onto paper, I submitted a proposal with a budget to Lavinia well as Treva Webster, IRC’s Director of Early Start, Intake, Clinical Services, and FRN. When the proposal was accepted by the directors I was thrilled to put two of my passions together, cooking and nutrition. IRC gave me a budget to purchase supplies and ingredients for the recipes.
Nutrition and IRC Consumers
I had always wanted to do a cooking class for IRC’s clients. The target audience is those who are independent, living on their own, and may be a little fearful of the stove or using knives. These clients often use boxed or microwaveable foods that are full of preservatives and loaded with sodium. I thought they could learn healthier alternatives.
Nutrition is very important to leading a healthy lifestyle. It is the basis that determines how we feel. A healthy eating plan uses fresh ingredients and may require a little bit of cooking.
This class gives our Consumers the confidence and education that is needed to prepare fresh and healthy meals. We also spend time learning the importance of nutrition, what it means to be healthy, how to read a recipe and the importance of physical activity.
All the meals we made were fresh, easy to prepare, and delicious! We made a homemade top ramen, healthy mac n cheese, a grain bowl loaded with nutrients, and homemade beef stroganoff. I chose these recipes because they are versions of the boxed foods that many already use and like. There are so many recipes that are simple to prepare and can be made in a much healthier way!
Our Consumers just lack a few simple skills and education to learn how to create simple and healthy meals. This class fulfills that need. I was so grateful to the directors for allowing me to do this.
Safety, Health, Nutrition, and Fitness
I also wanted to combine cooking with teaching nutrition. The first part of each class is 30-45 minutes of teaching. The first class was spent learning kitchen safety, such as how to put out a grease fire as well as how to hold and be safe with a knife. We also discussed the importance of keeping the kitchen clean and how to prevent hazards. The second class was focused on health, and what it means to be healthy. It is dependent on good nutrition and exercise, yes. Also sleep, controlling anger, and reducing stress, can also play a big role.
The third class was all about nutrition! We focused on eating fresh foods and well-balanced meals that include fruits and vegetables. When you are eating well you are feeling well. The last class was all about exercise. We even had a little demo by our volunteer, Chuchie Doubek, and one of the attendees!
After the educational portion, the clients put on their aprons, washed their hands, and met me in the kitchen. We kept class sizes small to allow for thorough instruction and safety. There were 6 Consumers who attended and this class was all about them! Caretakers and family members did not participate but were able to watch and occasionally have dinner with us. Actually, many of them learned and had many questions for me.
A Future for Food for Life
I hope to repeat this course in May to our Spanish speaking community. After that, if all goes well it will be offered every quarter!
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