Our HEALing Kitchen supports new moms

New mom Kori and her three-month-old son Jaxston enjoy the HEAL cooking classes.

Most of the pregnant women who come to live at A Mother’s Hope don’t have much experience cooking. But thanks to the Our HEALing Kitchen program, the women who live in this homeless shelter get exposed to cooking and nutrition lessons they can use long after they’ve left.

“We participate in HEAL because many of the women we serve tell us they don’t like healthy food, so we really want to try getting some different recipes and options just for them to try. We usually find that they end up liking many of the recipes,” says Stasia Roth, executive director of A Mother’s Hope. “Many people are afraid to use knives but then once they are taught how to use them they get much more comfortable and are able to chop and cook just about anything, especially vegetables.”

HEAL stands for Healthy Eating Active Living and is a partnership of the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Parkview Health.

Our HEALing Kitchen is a “Train-the-Trainer” program to help people, especially those who are low-income or vulnerable, learn to prepare healthy and affordable meals. Using Our HEALing Kitchen curriculum, developed by Parkview Health dietitians, organizations host a series of six to eight cooking and nutrition classes for anywhere from eight to 12 students. Organizations designate a program facilitator who receives training and coaching, as well as the materials needed to teach a successful series of classes.

Jackie Smiley, the house manager at A Mother’s Hope, loves cooking and finds the HEAL classes to be a great complement to the other services offered at the shelter. “It’s about more than cooking,” says Smiley. “Getting them all together, they are more connected when they do a class together. When they work and cook together, they bond and support one another.”

Since 2016, more than 2,000 participants around the community have taken the Our HEALing Kitchen course. Surveys show that after participants complete the course, they report eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as being better informed about how to prepare healthy meals.