IMG_1989At the end of June, we were delighted to host a cooking demonstration from the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB). Mary Agnew, Nutrition Educator, with help from volunteer Lauren Garra, demonstrated a nutritious and easy recipe that ASA’s clients could cook with food they received from the Helping Hands Food Bank.

“I thought this would be a great way to increase our collaboration with CAFB and also to provide something new, different, and hands on for our clients to experience,” Julie Falchuk, Food Bank Manager, explains.

Before the workshop started, every client received a packet containing factsheets, a nutrition guide, directions on how to safely prepare food (Food Safe Families Four Steps), and a quiz that tried to capture how much knowledge they had before the workshop.

“I like cooking,” Mary explained as she set up her workspace, complete with cutting boards, pots, and a hot plate. “It’s fun. But I think a lot of people are intimidated when they see a recipe. I like to show people they can make a lot of healthy meals easily.”

IMG_1991CAFB offers workshops all over Austin to a variety of different groups from children to the elderly. When I asked about why she thought the workshops were so successful, Mary joked it might just be the prospect of free food that brought people in! But the real reason people enjoy the workshops is “seeing the food made, rather than just reading a recipe,” Mary said.

Julie had the clients in mind when she decided to put on the workshop. “[At CAFB], they came up with a recipe using items from our Food Bank which included tuna, tomato sauce, and whole wheat pasta as the main ingredients. These are staple items on our menu that tend to be popular. They set up the ingredients very much like a cooking show and as the dish was cooking, they [taught about] the importance of fiber since pasta was a main ingredient.”

At the end of the workshop, clients sampled the meal Mary had prepared. Each serving was portioned out into bowls with a measuring cup, and Mary encouraged the crowd to do the same at home so they could get used to what different serving sizes looked like.

IMG_1993The feedback from the crowd was immediate. “This looks tasty!” And once they tried it, “That is good.” Everyone was in agreement that the healthy meal actually tasted much better than they thought it would. And they excitedly started offering their own ideas of how to modify it at home with fajita meat, or cook the pasta ahead of time to make preparation easier.

At the end of the workshop, all the clients received a free cutting board from CAFB and a cooler bag from ASA, so they could get started on cooking healthy at home.

Julie was very pleased with the turnout and knows that the clients benefited as well. “They were able to take home with them a new way of cooking items that they receive from us at the Food Bank.” In addition to learning about fiber and different food groups, the clients received several recipes to try at home. The workshop also served a different purpose in that “they they got a sense of community from attending the group.”

Julie hopes to offer at least one more workshop this year, and the clients seem quite interested as well. In fact, perhaps the greatest testament to the value of the workshop was the number of people who asked at the end, “When are you coming back?”