A recent study suggests that simply increasing access to nutritious foods in food deserts has a negligible impact on people's fruit and vegetable consumption. Researchers speculate that perhaps pairing access to healthy foods with educational programs on how to cook with them could result in more veggies on plates.
Mother Hubbard's Cupboard (MHC) is taking this idea one step further in their nutrition education program and letting good tastes to create demand for good food.
Healthy, Tasty, Cheap
Kayte Young, Nutrition Education Coordinator at MHC, says the prevalence of packaged foods has prevented some people from learning the skills to prepare whole foods in ways both economical and tasty. “We try to target this audience to let them know it's not that hard," she says.
She conducts cooking workshops at MHC that are open to all patrons, one of the most recent was called "Beautiful Beans And Gorgeous Grains." Attendees helped her assemble millet timbales with black bean salsa and wheat berry salad with apples and mint.
Elizabeth Davis and her three young girls attended the class to learn new tricks for cooking beans and rice. “They can get pretty boring,” she said. “They're something that people eat all over the world and it would be great to have more recipes under our belt.”
Not only is cooking with dry beans and whole grains more affordable than purchasing processed foods, Young says, it's also more nutritious. “In prepackaged food, a lot of the nutrients are lost and there are a lot of additives we would be better off without in our diets.”
Young also mentions that beans and grains are easy to store, so a stocked pantry means you'll always have food ready to make.
It's a great feeling to know they're going to go home and cook that, and now they have more food and more resources for nourishing their family.
If You Cook It, They Will Come
With the abundance of fresh produce that comes through MHC in the spring and summer, Young regularly prepares dishes for patrons to sample as they pick up groceries. After they taste the dish, she sends them home with a recipe. “Sampling is key,” she says. “If you show them how quick and easy a recipe is to make and they get to taste it, it makes all the difference.”
This method of addressing patrons directly in the pantry while they're selecting foods is a great conversation starter, which Young finds is their best mode of education.
"A lot of times people have never tried butternut squash," she says. "We will slice it into strips and roast it in the oven, and now they're eating squash fries.”
The best outcome is when patrons then go over to the shelf and add that butternut squash to their bag of groceries. “It's a great feeling to know they're going to go home and cook that, and now they have more food and more resources for nourishing their family."