Cooking Matters classes cater to all ages

On a basic level, we eat to survive – but food is usually so much more than that. It can be a comfort, a social activity and even a pastime.

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Cooking Matters students each got a chance to work over the stove, scrambling eggs and making fried rice.

At a recent cooking and nutrition class held by Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program, this was the topic of the nutrition lesson: to be mindful of what we eat and why we eat it. Cooking Matters hosts 6-week classes for people of all ages throughout the year, but this particular class was for families with children in middle school.

Cooking Matters, part of the national Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, teaches families and children how to buy and cook healthy food on a budget. The goal is not only to teach, but also to provide a space for participants to share experiences and information. Cooking Matters Program Coordinator Nicole Dufva says, “We try to foster a dialogue about what it means to eat healthy for each person.”

In the area, Cooking Matters partners with up to 60 community organizations to host and teach classes. The recent class for families with middle schoolers was a satellite program at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, run by the nutritionist at the clinic, Rebecca Finkel.

Though it’s the satellite program’s 8th year, this was Rebecca’s first time teaching a class specifically for families with middle schoolers. Before, the clinic hosted classes for families with children ages 8-13. This change was made in response to parent comments, suggesting that working with peer groups is more productive and fun for their children.

Rebecca explains that middle schoolers are old enough to do more actual cooking than younger children, so “it’s a good time for them to gain basic skills and nutrition awareness so that if their parents are at work or away, they can make something easy and healthy to eat.”

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The near-finished product: fried rice with tofu

After the nutrition lesson, the kids practiced cracking, scrambling and frying eggs to use in the main dish, fried rice with tofu. Meanwhile, the parents sat down to talk with Rebecca.

Rebecca explains that parents’ participation is equally important for this age group, because the parents are responsible for “setting the food environment.” In other words, parents are responsible for the food that is available if their children want to make food for themselves.

“The food environment also determines the rules around eating together,” says Rebecca. “Is the TV on during the meal? Are screens allowed during the meal? What do they discuss at the table?” The parent group discusses changes that could be made in the household to create a healthier lifestyle, including cooking together, getting more exercise or eating meals together.

On the 5th week of each class, the group travels to a local grocery store to practice shopping for nutritious food on a budget. Many families may consider fresh produce to be too expensive, so Cooking Matters emphasizes the health benefits of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables; in general, all classes focus on a plant-based diet.

Besides fried rice with tofu, this group made a delicious mango salsa to snack on during the class. At the end of the night, everyone received a copy of the recipes and a bag of fresh ingredients so that they could enjoy the dishes again at home.

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‘Tis the season to enjoy some pumpkin!

This post contributed by our staff at Cooking Matters originally appeared on their blog.

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The final product: a delicious yet healthy pumpkin smoothie

It’s October and you know what that means…PUMPKIN OVERLOAD!

When we enter our grocery store, we know it is “pumpkin season” as we are welcomed by the different pumpkins used as decorations in the front of the store. Our taste buds start to send signals to our brain telling us that we must devour a homemade pumpkin pie by the end of this season.

However, our busy schedules say otherwise and discourage us from taking part of the Pumpkin trend this month. We conclude that we won’t have time to make this delicious pumpkin recipe, since we barely have to time to prepare our regular meals.

Do not be discouraged any longer! I have developed a pumpkin recipe that takes no longer than 5 minutes! Yes, you read right…5 minutes!

Let us not delay this recipe any longer. You will find below the ingredients and steps below to create a PUMPKIN SMOOTHIE that you can make at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe

Prep time 5 minsTotal time 5 mins

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 medium banana (frozen)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup  low-fat milk and and add a 1  tsps. of vanilla extract or unsweetened vanilla soy milk

Instructions

  1. Mix everything into a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.

*You may need to stop to stir once or twice. If the smoothie appears or tastes too thick, don’t be afraid to add a touch more soy milk or even a little water.

Hunger Action (every)Day

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Members of the 43rd Congressional District brought legislative hunger and food issues to the state capitol on March 9, 2015

This post by Anna Lourie of Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program originally appeared on the Cooking Matters Blog.

March is National Nutrition Month! So, what does that mean exactly? To us at Cooking Matters, it means a chance to focus on ourselves and our nutrition – perhaps by paying a little extra attention to our food choices, making sure to get outside with some physical activity, or being intentional about enjoying some of the MyPlate groups that we don’t always fit in. (We’re looking at you, fruits and vegetables!)

However, as we spend the month reflecting on nutrition, it’s important to also consider one of the huge barriers to leading a nutritious lifestyle: food insecurity. The Children’s Alliance estimates that approximately 305,000 Washington state children live in food insecure households. (Food insecurity is a term used to describe households financially stretched to the point where they cannot be certain that all of their members have a consistent, reliable source of food.) Households particularly affected by food insecurity are those headed by single mothers or fathers, African-American or Hispanic households, and households with incomes below the official poverty line.

On Monday, Cooking Matters joined concerned citizens, employees of Solid Ground, food bank clients and directors, service providers, urban agriculturalists, nutritionists and members of anti-poverty and hunger organizations from all over the state to speak to legislators in Olympia on behalf of hungry families in Washington. This powerful event, called Hunger Action Day, is organized by the Anti Hunger & Nutrition Coalition and occurs during the legislative session to place emphasis on hunger issues.

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2015 Hunger Action Day participants rallying on the Legislative Building steps in Olympia

The event began with an information session in the basement of the Capitol building where we discussed our priorities and shared some staggering statistics about hunger in Washington state. We were shocked to learn that Washington ranks 43rd out of 50 states in connecting low-income students to nutritious school breakfasts. In addition, of the 11,000 legal immigrant families in Washington who rely on State Food Assistance, these families receive only 75 cents to the dollar of food stamp benefits others receive. Are you fired up yet? We sure were.

After this information session, we broke into smaller groups to meet with our respective legislators and discuss how to better serve the one in seven Washingtonians who are food insecure. We met with legislators from the 43rd Congressional District, the district where some of our coordinators reside and Solid Ground is located. We didn’t know if we would be able to speak with our elected officials since there were House votes scheduled for most of the day, but we were actually able to speak to two Representatives and two Legislative Assistants about our agenda for this year!

It was so amazing to be able to talk about the daily experiences that we have with our participants here at Cooking Matters, and to hear that our elected officials share our passion for ending hunger in Washington. This is why Cooking Matters is so important in the larger context of food justice in our state. To learn more about these issues, please visit the Anti Hunger & Nutrition Coalition’s list of 2015 legislative priorities website.

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