Cooking Up Nutritious Foods and Healthy Lifestyles for LaGrange District Families

May 4, 2015

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) LaGrange Health District is cooking up healthy, affordable and delicious meals for local families through Cooking Matters, a program led by Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.

Spearheading the Cooking Matters program, managed by the Georgia Coalition for Physical Activity and Nutrition (GPAN), is Health Promotion Coordinator Beth Daniel. Daniel has partnered with GPAN to train WIC nutritionists and dietetic interns on healthy shopping and cooking skills they can impart to their program participants.

The Cooking Matters program was initially provided in grocery stores in underserved areas in Fayette, Henry, Spalding and Troup counties.  The WIC dietetic interns provided a total of 48 cooking demonstrations and grocery store tours over the span of about 12 weeks. 

During the two hour sessions, participants learned practical nutrition skills like reading food labels, hands-on cooking skills and food budgeting strategies such as shopping with a grocery list or comparing unit prices. Shoppers observed WIC staff prepare healthy meals and tasted the food prepared during the cooking demonstration.

“We have been successful with WIC as an internal partner in the Cooking Matters initiative,” said Daniel. “It was up to the WIC dietetic interns to select their own external or store partners to host the cooking demonstrations and tours." 

Cooking Matters helps families make the most of the resources and foods they have - whether it’s using WIC vouchers for food or buying more fruits and vegetables. 

In addition to educational sessions, the Cooking Matters program provides nutritional pamphlets and a copy of the recipes being prepared to shoppers. The cooking demonstrations were held at various locations including Food Depot and Piggly Wiggly in Troup County; Wal-Mart in Spalding County; Food Depot and Kroger in Fayette County; and Kroger in Henry County.

“Drawings for $10 gift cards were offered as incentives at each cooking demo,” said Daniel. “Shoppers used the gift cards to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at that particular grocery store.”

Cooking Matters classes were also offered to the Circles of Troup County participants. Circles of Troup County is an organization that helps people living in poverty reach their goals and become self-sufficient. Circles of Troup County is building a community where every person has enough resources, relationships and reasons to thrive. 

The Cooking Matters program consisted of six weekly lessons facilitated by Troup County WIC nutritionist, Geneva Lewis Watkins. Participants gained knowledge, skills and confidence to prepare healthy and affordable meals on a budget. A grocery store tour was provided during the last session.

The West Georgia Health Community Health Needs Assessment determined that obesity was a health priority that can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and other types of cancer among its community members.

With this in mind, Daniel developed a creative partnership between the Boys and Girls Club of West Georgia, West Georgia Health, University of Georgia’s Extension Master Gardner volunteers and Jenny Jack Sun Farm to establish a community garden at the Boys and Girls Club facility in Troup County. Partners like Home Depot, Garden Solutions, LaGrange College, Wild Land Management Services and Advanced Handling Systems, Inc. provided in-kind services for the community garden.

The Piedmont Fayette Community Health Needs Assessment determined that one in five adults are notably physically inactive, nearly 24 percent of adults are obese and 37 percent are overweight. These findings led Daniel to partner with Fayetteville Main Street/Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to develop a one mile “Wellness Walk” in downtown Fayetteville. 

The City of Fayetteville completed downtown sidewalk enhancements that included brick inlays, benches, street lights and trash receptacles along a major portion of the proposed walking trail. The LaGrange Health District helped to provide free standing flyer boxes with card holders, mile marker posts and printing of the “Wellness Walk” flyers with trail map and directions that includes historic landmarks along the path. 

“I hope this ‘Wellness Walk’ will set an example of encouraging community design and development that supports physical activity for families,” said Daniel.

To learn more about GPAN, visit www.g-pan.org. For more information about the LaGrange Health District programs and community resources, visit www.district4health.org

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