On Wednesday, October 9, several families gathered in Trinidad High School instructor Denise Sciacca’s classroom to hear a presentation given by Dr. Ivory Raye and AmeriCorps volunteers Sarah Spainhower and Alison Mendonça on how to cook healthy meals on a budget.
The class, a joint effort of THS teachers Denise Sciacca and Donna Grant along with Mt. Carmel, is one of several that will be taking place in the community over coming months to encourage conscientious eating habits no matter the budget. The classes also focus on spending time with each other and gathering as families and community around food.
“We want people to come back to what it looks like to prepare meals as a family and eat together,” said Ivory Raye, a local naturopathic doctor who has an office in Trinidad on First Street. “That’s all really important and can sometimes get lost with how busy we get. It’s great to share space together as opposed to eating on the go. Preparing the meal together and eating the meal together is just as important as what we’re eating.”
As for what they were eating, the meal on the menu for the class was black bean quesadillas, which some found unusual. Dr. Raye explained it’s good to learn to be open to different foods early on; something she personally relates with.
“Certainly the way you prepare things makes a big difference,” she noted. “It takes a little bit of curiosity. I was the worst eater when I was growing up and then what happened was that over time, I got sick because I wasn’t eating enough healthy nutrients in my diet. So then I had to really look at it when I was about 25 and then figure out how to be healthy verses learning and enjoying it from a younger age. Now I love it and feel really good but it’s better to learn it early on.”
In this and other cooking classes coming up, things covered range from stocking the pantry, to good fats versus fats to limit, to label reading, meal planning, and balancing the types of foods on a plate.
Part of Dr. Ivory’s drive behind offering these classes, along with others at Mt. Carmel, is to help show people how easy and fulfilling taking control of personal health can be.
“We want to empower people so they know what they can do for themselves,” Dr. Raye said. “It’s good to have medical communities supporting them but also people have to have strategies for being healthier the rest of the time. We want people to understand that you can cook healthy on a budget and it doesn’t have to be a long process or challenging. All of the meals that we cook in our classes you should be able to repeat for a family of four for under $10. You really can eat healthy on a budget and it can taste good, too.”
According to Dr. Raye, Mt. Carmel has been able to do more in the community with the help of a partnership with AmeriCorps, giving them people power to offer more.
“We started our AmeriCorps members last year which was year one for that,” said Dr. Ivory. “We had some things in place and we used it as a test year to see what worked and what areas to focus more on, so we were able to build in more for this year. The AmeriCorps members allow us to have two extra bodies that let us do so much more and have made it really amazing. They come in August and stay through the following July with an option to stay an extra year.”
Dr. Ivory also expressed that there are other opportunities for members of the community to take this class and that many such classes couldn’t be done without community collaboration and support.
“We’ll be starting up another Cooking Matters class in November that will run for five weeks and the HULA grant and the local Health Department helps with that as well,” said Dr. Ivory. “So we’re all basically collaborating together to be sure we can offer as many classes and as many participants in the community as we can to help make our community healthier.”
For more information about upcoming classes or to join their next class, contact Mt. Carmel at 719-845-4894.