Have you had layered queso? When you dive into the queso with your tortilla chip, you travel though pico de gallo, queso and finally reach what brings the whole thing together, the guacamole. The grocery distribution component of our nutrition classes is like that guacamole – it’s the defining ingredient that brings the classes together.
It strengthens our efforts in encouraging families to go home and prepare healthy balanced recipes by eliminating the barriers that would prevent them from doing so. Students learn about the benefits of the recipe during class, how to prepare it and receive all the ingredients necessary to make it at home.
Every week, Amy, one of our nutrition educators, would go back to Stonehaven and Del Valle Opportunity Center and hear exciting cooking stories. One young adult in her class made a spinach, mango, banana smoothie for his family in his bedroom and after some persuading, he was able to convince his family to try it. They loved it so much that they asked for seconds.
In the same class, another student shared that they felt more independent and were able to use the groceries to cook for themselves instead of relying on their parents for a meal. Stories like these highlight the impact that the grocery distribution had on clients.
Another impact Amy noticed was the shift from students intending to make the recipe at home to actually making the recipe. Some clients got impressively creative with the leftovers. Every week, students were eager to share how they cooked the produce they received from the garden and what they did with the leftover ingredients. A gingered carrot soup and carrot popsicles were among the ones that really stood out.
The groceries provided encouraged the class to explore new recipes that they otherwise wouldn’t have tried. When the class received mustard greens and swiss chard from our garden, most of them shared that they had never tried them before. That didn’t stop them from experimenting and trying different recipes they found. The groceries helped expose clients to new foods they might not have otherwise tried.
For many, grocery shopping means shopping for food and ingredients they’re familiar with. This is typically the case with our students. When we ask clients if they have ever tried foods such as tofu, quinoa, couscous, beets, brown rice, and Greek yogurt, we receive responses like, “I never get it because I don’t know what to do with it” or “I tried it once and I didn’t like it.”
By making the recipes in class, clients are able to try new foods and learn how to prepare it themselves. Receiving the ingredients for the recipe at the end of class reinforces that exposure. Our educator received feedback from clients about how surprised they were by how easy it is to transform the recipes into something they enjoy eating. When Amy asked her students if they could see themselves eating these foods again in the future, most of the class agreed that they could.
In our last class, we have a potluck to celebrate the completion of the series. This is a time when educators get to sit down, talk, and reflect with clients. As the potluck wrapped up, a client raised their hand and through tears expressed how valuable and helpful the series and groceries have been in his life. This sincere moment will always be a reminder of the impact that our nutrition education classes have on our community.