Among all the students at an older adult nutrition education class, one student in particular stands out. He’s the youngest of the group at 14 and carries his guitar with him.
Though the classes are for older adults, Xander accompanies his dad, Stephan, to the class each week.
Up until recently, Xander had severe autism and was non-verbal. After being homeschooled and seeing a speech therapist, he began to form sentences and is now considered functional in a couple of areas, his dad said.
Stephan is a single dad and the nutrition education classes are helping him teach his son life skills and an understanding of how meals are made.
“The classes are great because he’s got to learn how to cook. This has been really good. He’s going home now and asking questions of other people cooking,” Stephan said. “He’s starting to comprehend a life skill which is preparing food. But he never really understood it without seeing other people cooking.”
As Xander discovers new things in each class, Stephan learns how to cook healthy meals for them.
At the end of class, students receive a bag of food with all the ingredients they need to make the recipe they learned in class.
Though Stephan has learned how to make chicken and dumplings with tortillas, scrambled chickpeas and spinach, a healthy salmon salad and more, the father-son duo’s favorite recipe has been the pumpkin pie quinoa parfait.
“The one that we liked the best was the parfait,” Stephan said. “We made that at home. It was graham crackers and quinoa..we both like pumpkin.”
In addition to receiving food to make the recipes, class participants also get to take home organic, fresh produce from the Food Bank’s garden. To Stephan’s surprise, he has received all his favorite vegetables like kale, carrots and beets.
Stephan suffered from a hiatal hernia and now needs to avoid nightshade vegetables. Since he can’t eat tomatoes, he was excited to get fresh beets and was planning on making his special beet sauce that replace tomato sauce in his meals.
The family received a special treat when they were able to take home red carrots.
“I took one of the bigger ones, cleaned it up, shaved it like an ice pop, stuck an ice pop stick in the bottom of it and froze it, and gave it to him. He just slammed the thing down. It expanded his horizons,” Stephan said.
Though the nutrition classes are helping Stephan and Xander stay healthy, Stephan is grateful for the impact it’s making on his son.
“It’s really educational to learn some good recipes. I get reinforcement on things that I thought were right and I get to contribute things that I’ve learned to other people,” Stephan said. “I would really say that this is one of the most important places that we have in our life for me and my son. Without it, it would be difficult.”