‘Cooking matters’ for Suffolk residents

Published 9:15 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Suffolk residents learned more about healthy dieting while budgeting time and money at a one-day course on Wednesday.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension Service’s Suffolk Unit held the “Cooking Matters” event at its Market Street office.

Participants received copies of the “Cooking Matters for Adults” guide, a book developed by the national organization Share Our Strength for the No Kid Hungry campaign to provide children in need nutritious food and teach parents how to provide healthy and affordable meals.

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Tuesday was the 16th session of the course, held in partnership with the city of Suffolk, the Obici Healthcare Foundation, Farm Fresh, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. Each session has enticed five to 40 citizens to learn daily dieting and cooking essentials.

“We take people all the way from knife skills, to how to read labels and everything in between,” said Extension agriculture and natural resources agent and course organizer Marcus Williams.

An Extension Master Food volunteer or Family and Consumer Sciences agent teaches each session using a “Cooking Matters” guide.

Attendees learn basics like reading nutrition labels for sodium, calories, sugar, carbohydrates and other facts. They’re taught to try to avoid unhealthy food additives, such as enriched flour.

“Anything that’s enriched has the goodness stripped away from it,” Master Food volunteer Wanda Gerard said at the Wednesday session.

Some participants on Wednesday were interested in learning better portion control or how to use healthier ingredients in ways that keep meals tasty.

“Hopefully I pick up something new and push to a better way of eating,” Jerome Slade said.

Budgeting is integral to the course lessons. One of the challenges in the course is to prepare a plate with the essential food groups that costs under $10.

“I’m really interested in something I could cook with fewer ingredients and in less time,” said Theresa Penalosa, who attended the session with her 15-year-old daughter, Jasmine.

Gerard said that though she buys healthy ingredients, she doesn’t always make time to cook with them, sometimes opting for more convenient but less nutritious options. Part of the lesson is to take steps to budget your time and accommodate those dietary changes.

“It’s a stepping stone to a healthier lifestyle,” Gerard said. “It may just be baby steps, but if you can conquer those steps, it will lead to a healthier life.”

Extension staff will hold “Cooking Matters” courses from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 22 and 24 at their 440 Market St. office.