November 16, 2019 – by Mike Schut

“The class has been very fun!! I love the new recipes, cooking with ingredients I otherwise would not have used and finding that they are delicious and healthy. I have learned a lot about nutrition and making good choices for my family.” – Nicki, class member

One of this fall’s highlights has been our weekly Tuesday evening classes for a group of about ten parents, most of whom have children under five. We spend the first hour talking about nutrition and meal time and how to help young children try new foods, followed by an hour of hands-on cooking time to prepare (and eat!) a delicious meal.

The six-week “Cooking Matters” course inspires families to make healthy, affordable food choices, and teaches parents and caregivers with limited food budgets to shop for and cook healthy meals.

One class session is actually spent in the local grocery store. Participants compare and record the prices of fresh, versus frozen, versus canned, foods. They look closely at ingredient and nutrition labels. And then they take the $10 challenge: purchase enough food for one meal for a family of four, comprised of at least one whole grain, one fruit, one vegetable, one protein, and one dairy item.

Polk County: The course is particularly geared toward families on a budget. One in three Polk County residents, and nearly one in two Polk County children, live in low-income households.

We know that early experiences with food influence eating patterns throughout life, and every study confirms that adequate nutrition is central to young children’s health. In addition, when kids learn to eat healthy, we see lasting change in their food habits and behavior. For all these reasons, and more, we are particularly excited about this course.

Thanks to financial support from the Amery Health and Wellness Fund, childcare and gas cards are provided to participants each week. And, following our shared meal, parents go home with a bag full of groceries stocked with the ingredients needed to cook at home what was taught in that week’s class.

The course will be offered again in May/June 2020. The evidence-based curriculum was developed by Share Our Strength. Since 1993, more than 265,000 families from across the country have learned how to eat better for less. Share Our Strength provides the curricula, instructional materials, training, and evaluation.

Farm Table and Amery Hospital and Clinic are being guided by a local advisory group comprised of representatives of University of Wisconsin-Extension, United Way, FoodWIse, and Polk County Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Mike Schut serves as Farm Table’s Senior Director for Programs and Community Partnerships. For more information about the class in May/June, call 715.268.4510.