WeTHRIVE! teams in Whitewater Township and Forest Park partnered with Ohio State University (OSU) Extension to bring free healthy cooking classes to families with children in their communities. The nine-week “Eating Smart, Being Active” series is part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
Each week, Margarita Lewis from OSU Extension shared information on nutrition, healthy cooking, physical activity, stretching food dollars, and more. Participants learned to make recipes like enchilada casserole and fish tacos. They also received items to use at home, such as measuring cups, cutting mats, and a food thermometer. Everyone who completed all nine classes was given a graduation certificate and cookbook.
This is the second time Forest Park has offered the classes at the fire department. Five adults and their children attended all nine weeks. Four participants completed the series that was held at Whitewater Crossing Christian Church.
Classes make an impact
Renee Laguna attended all nine classes on Sunday afternoons at Whitewater Crossing. What she’s learned has changed how she eats and feeds her family.
“I’ve always had a problem eating enough vegetables,” she said. “And every single thing that we cooked in class incorporated a ton of vegetables, which was great…” After making and tasting the recipes in class, Renee made them at home for her two children. Her 12-year-old son has even made some of the recipes (his favorite is the skillet lasagna).
The classes also included at least 15 minutes of physical activity. Renee says the exercise has made a difference. “That 15 minutes the first time felt like forever,” she said. “But today [the final class] it was super quick.”
Renee looked forward to seeing her classmates and Margarita every week. “I’m a single parent … and I’m a nanny, so I’m just around kids all the time,” she said. “I think my favorite part was just being around other adults.” At the end of the last class, participants exchanged cell phone numbers so they can keep in touch.
Kids participate in Forest Park
In Forest Park, nine-year-old Adira attended the classes with her mom, DeLora. On the Monday night when we visited, Adira brought a friend. They jumped right in to help chop vegetables for the grilled quesadillas.
DeLora says she learned to make dishes they’ve never tried before, like the vegetable stir fry, which is Adira’s favorite. DeLora appreciates the take-home tools, especially the grocery list pad. It’s based on MyPlate, so it’s a good visual reminder to purchase healthy items from each food group.
Another participant (who prefers to be anonymous) says the healthy cooking classes are important to her because diabetes runs in her family. She attended the series with her teenage daughter. “We’ve learned lots about things like serving sizes and we’ve tried foods we’ve never had before,” she said. “It’s also nice to be in a group. I like the community, all the people talking and sharing.”
North College Hill’s WeTHRIVE! team is bringing “Eating Smart, Being Active” to its community in January. The series of nine free classes starts on Thursday, January 17, 6:30-8:00pm at North College Hill City Hall (1500 W. Galbraith). For more information or to RSVP, contact Margarita Lewis at email@example.com or 513-946-897.