Knowing how to make a healthy meal on a budget may be one of the most important skills a person can learn. For the past few weeks, the students in Lori Moses’ off-site alternative ed class have had the chance to do just that.
During the end of May and beginning of June, the class participated in the Cooking Matters program sponsored by the Good Shepherd Food Bank and Hannaford. The free program is designed to teach students how to prepare simple, healthy meals and snacks. The classes were taught by Debbie Barnett, a Community Education Assistant for the Nutrition Education Program through the UMaine Cooperative Extension. Each class focused on a particular skill or lesson such as how to read a food label or how to use spices. After the lesson, students worked on making the recipe of the day.
“Each student has a specific job and they work together to complete the meal,” said Moses.“They get to eat the meal they prepared together, and each student takes home a bag of fresh ingredients to prepare the meal again at home for their family.”
The class learned how to make veggie lasagna and pizza, french toast with fruit, smoothies, yogurt parfaits, and other delicious and healthy foods. They even learned to make hummus and salsa from scratch. The lessons all focused on how to cook on a small budget while still using healthy ingredients.
The 100% attendance for the program was a clear testament to how much the students loved it. “I didn’t know healthy food could taste so good,” said one student. For many, their favorite part was being able to bring home the ingredients to make the meal again for their family. One student shared that they didn’t have an oven at home so she learned to modify the recipes to make them on the stove top or in the microwave.
“We have a wonderful backpack program, but the food is typically processed non-perishable foods,” said Moses. “These were fresh from the grocery store and meals they knew how to cook from practice.”
The off-site alternative education class is looking to add the Cooking Matters program to their curriculum for next year. They hope to offer it once a week for the whole year.
written by Mandi Favreau