Food Bank Aims To Feed Families For A Lifetime With Healthy Cooking Classes
TULSA, Oklahoma - The mission of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is, of course, to feed the hungry.
But thanks to a dedicated volunteer, that mission is expanding this year. Her philosophy: teach a family to cook, and feed them for a lifetime.
Every Wednesday night for six weeks, a group of Tulsa families gathers at the food bank for a little class time and a little cooking. On chef Michael Vernon's menu this Wednesday night, sweet potato fries and healthy apple crumble.
"Mom says I need to eat a lot better, and she's right," said class member Alex.
And that is the goal of Cooking Matters, a program designed to help folks learn how to make low-cost, nutritious meals.
"I've always felt that if we give people food, but they don't know what to do with it, then we really haven't fed them," said food bank volunteer Stacey Craig.
Tulsa's program was brought to life by Craig. She's a kind of super-volunteer, who's always looking to make things better. And last summer she hit on a new approach.
"I had this idea that we should approach food insecurity in Tulsa by teaching people how to cook," Craig said.
She did some research, found a similar program in Dallas, and partnered with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to bring it to Tulsa.
Certainly, we have room for improvement. Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of the list in the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Expense is a factor. Fresh fruits and veggies cost more than many processed foods.
But that's where nutritionist Barbara Tricinella comes in, to help folks understand their options.
"Fresh food is great, but you can also use canned and frozen and dried foods when the other foods are not in season," Tricinella said.
Its also important to keep an open mind.
Alex's mom made her promise she'd try at least one bite of everything.
"At first I was like, 'Noooo,' and some of the things I admit I didn't like, but I found out I did like some things," she said.
"I think the results of the program are best summed up by one of the participants last fall who said, at the graduation meeting, she said, 'I feel like I've won the lottery, just getting to take this class,'" Craig said.
After each class, participants are sent home with a bag of groceries, so they can practice the recipes at home.
Click here for more information, if you're interested in Cooking Matters - as a participant or volunteer.