Cooking Matters helps to build healthy eating habits

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Cooking Matters class participants Donita Hoosier of London (front) and Vicky Victor of London prepare a mixture for chicken burgers. Chopped onion and peppers keep the ground chicken moist, and only a small amount of canola oil is used in a nonstick skillet to brown the burgers.

(Posted Dec. 26, 2019)

By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer

Cooking healthful, tasty food on a budget? It can be done! And SNAP-Ed Cooking Matters classes can show you how.

Presented through the Ohio State University (OSU) Extension, Cooking Matters teaches participants about kitchen safety, safe food storage, and how to cook budget-friendly meals that taste good and are good for you. Anyone in Madison County can sign up for the free classes. At least half of participants must qualify for federal food assistance programs such as SNAP-Ed, WIC or soup kitchens.

“I like to meet members of the community and help them understand ways they can have healthier habits through the food, drink, and exercise choices they make every day,” said Deetra Huntington, OSU Extension SNAP-Ed program assistant for Madison County.

“The program has changed me personally because I enjoy running into previous participants and hearing how well they’re doing or how they’ve decreased their blood pressure and improved in other health areas. I like to know I’ve made an impact.”

SNAP-Ed program assistant Jessica Lowe readies cut sweet potatoes to be mixed with seasoning while Cooking Matters class member Shannon Hix of London spreads the seasoned potatoes out on a sheet pan.

OSU Extension-Madison County first offered Cooking Matters in 2017. The classes were an outgrowth of a county-wide community health assessment. The county’s Healthy Lifestyles Task Force partnered with the Extension to make the educational opportunity a reality. Madison Health joined in, providing funding and a place to hold the classes. The Extension has gone on to offer the classes two or three times a year.

Class participants work together to make recipes from the “Cooking Matters for Adults” cookbook and eat the meals. Each week, they also receive tote bags filled with ingredients for the recipes they have made in class.

The most recent session took place Oct. 21-Dec. 2. Among the dishes participants made were Northwest apple salad and turkey chili.

In one of the weekly classes, Pickaway County SNAP-Ed program assistant Jessica Lowe spread solid shortening on a hamburger bun. The “blubber burger,” as she called it, represents how much fat is in a burger from a well-known fast-food chain. Class members were astonished by the visual. As an alternative to such a meal, they made chicken burgers and baked sweet potato fries.

(From left) Cooking Matters class members Vicky Victor, Donita Hoosier, Jamie Wilson and Debbie Vecchiarelli, all from London, listen as Cooking Matters program coordinator Jenna Haaser and SNAP-Ed program assistant Deetra Huntington (far right) talk about how to read and understand nutrition labels on a field trip at the London Kroger.

Learning healthy habits in the classroom is one thing, but class members get to take it a step further and meet at the London Kroger to take the “$10 Challenge.” Program assistants ask them to think about what they already have on hand in their pantries to make a healthy meal and then give each of them a shopping allowance of $10 to buy additional ingredients to make the meal at home.

During the most recent session, Huntington, Lowe and Cooking Matters program coordinator Jenna Haaser led the group through the store, sharing tricks for buying healthy food on a budget, how to read and understand nutrition labels, and how to get their families excited about healthy eating.

When class member Donita Hoosier of London first made the chicken burger recipe in class, she was impressed.

“The burger is juicy and has a good taste,” she said.

She used her $10 allowance to get the ingredients to make it again at home.

At the end of each Cooking Matters series, each class member receives a certificate of completion and a Cooking Matters for Adults Cookbook.

For information about future Cooking Matters classes, contact Deetra Huntington at (740) 852-0975 or Huntington.41@osu.edu

To access healthy, budget-friendly recipes like the ones class members made, visit cookingmatters.org and celebrateyourplate.org.

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