The Westside Health Authority began offering cooking classes last week as part of its new community kitchen.
“We want this to be a place where the community can come to eat healthier and take classes,” said Cody McSellers-McCray, director of health promotions at Westside Health Authority.
The goal is to increase demand for fresh food and replace the low-nutrient, high-calorie foods, beverages and snacks that can lead to obesity. The nutrition and cooking classes target residents of all ages, from youth through seniors.
The community kitchen will include a mock grocery store that “will teach everyone to shop,” said McSellers-McCray.
More than 70 supporters were on hand Oct. 17th to celebrate the official opening of the community kitchen, located at 5852 West North Ave. (Here are some photos and video from our partners at the Austin Weekly News.)
There were food demonstrations that gave attendees ideas about how to eat and cook healthier. Vegan food, provided by Trader Joe’s of Oak Park, was served, including southern-style kale salad, basmati wild rice, beef-less stir-fry with teriyaki glaze and chicken-less stir-fry with orange glaze.
“The food that was prepared today was very appealing and had a very nice taste. This is a healthy alternative to our daily eating,” said Austin resident Willie Mae Thomas. “If we started eating healthier when we were younger, then we wouldn’t have some of the diseases that we have now.”
One of the chefs who attended the kick-off said women can have the biggest impact in changing a community’s eating habits.
“I am a firm believer that women will be a catalyst for change in wellness,” said Norma Rixter, a vegan chief, health columnist and lifestyle wellness coach for women. “Small things will make a huge difference with the rest of the family.”
Rixter also noted obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases hit the the African-American population harder than other racial and ethnic groups.
But that can change, if people improve their eating habits. “You are what you eat,” she said.
It can be challenging to find the right foods at the right prices, some say.
Jonathan Currie, who lives in Humboldt Park and works in Austin, told the Austin Weekly News he’s been hard-pressed to find healthy options that fit his budget. He hopes the community kitchen will educate residents and local officials alike.
“It’s more than just the presence of the community kitchen here,” said Currie, who works as an organizer for the Westside Health Authority. “It’s a way for us to create advocacy around these issues that we think about but don’t really know how to address. It’s a good launching point.
For more information about taking the classes, call 773-786-0249.