We are here to learn from each other (and eat).
The bags of ingredients are carefully laid out for each family on a long folding table and the recipes are stapled together. Colanders stand ready to wash vegetables and the oven is preheating. 425 degrees.
Ana Atwater stands in the doorway of Hinshaw United Methodist Church in Greensboro, propping the door with her foot. She warmly greets families as they arrive with a broad smile that sets the tone for the evening: “We are here to learn from each other, to enjoy in fellowship and to eat.”
Half an hour later, the kitchen is alive with activity. Cutting boards are out and knives click along them, cutting mushrooms and bell peppers. “Try holding the knife back a little,” suggests Nancy, who is leading tonight’s lesson. A mother and daughter duo both giggle—they both move their hands back on their knives.
Second Harvest is promoting good nutrition through classes and workshops that build knowledge and skills to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. “Cooking Matters for Families is especially impactful because it allows a space for parents and children to come together and cook a wholesome meal, side by side,” says Jane Anderson, Second Harvest’s Nutrition Services Supervisor.
Food insecurity is not entirely about a lack of food: it is also frequently about a lack of quality, wholesome and nutritious foods. As working families try to cover basic needs such as housing, utilities, transportation, and childcare, they increasingly find that less and less of their incomes are left over to purchase food. To provide enough meals, they are often left with no choice but to choose calories and quantity over quality, nutritious food.
That is one reason why Second Harvest is encouraging healthier food donations and increasing our fresh, nutritionally dense food distribution. Additionally, through Cooking Matters classes such as this one, we are helping families learn how to stretch those tight budgets to incorporate as many healthy meals as possible.
In another room, Ana is making a salad dressing with two young boys, who are interchangeably playing tag and squeezing oranges. They become very focused and engaged when Ana suggests that they dance while they shake up the dressing to mix it. The result is a very well mixed dressing… and two boys who are eager to try their salads.
“The best part is sitting down together each week at the end of the class and hearing kids share their favorite parts about cooking… and parents telling us proudly about how they’ve been cooking more meals at home,” says Jane Anderson. “Because that’s what it’s all about.”
Finally, the mini pizzas come out of the oven and the salad is served. “They are cute!” says one child as she puts a pizza on her plate. “I’ve never seen strawberries in a salad before!” exclaims another. The families sit around the tables with the sun streaking in through the tall church windows.
We are here to learn from each other, to enjoy in fellowship and to eat.
This Cooking Matters for Families class is another example of how Second Harvest uses community collaborations to do our best work. While we bring the curricula, it is the volunteers and funding from Sedgefield Presbyterian Church and the donation of space from Hinshaw UMC that help make this program happen. Would you like to get involved to support or volunteer for a Cooking Matters class? Contact us here.