Longtime community volunteer Peg Van Grouw likes to look for ways to make a difference in her community.
When she volunteered with Community Action House’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in 2020, she wanted to find another way to stay involved with the organization.
During a recent trip to CAH’s recently opened Food Club & Opportunity Hub, she saw volunteers wearing bright, colorful aprons. Hearing about CAH’s upcoming effort to launch healthy eating and nutrition classes at its on-site demonstration kitchen, Van Grouw stepped forward with an offer.
The senior volunteers sewed the aprons for the Community Action House clients. (CAH)
Soon, she had enlisted a group of friends and neighbors at Freedom Village to sew custom aprons for cooking class participants, with support from a Hope Academy of Senior Professionals service grant.
Before long, a group of volunteers worked together to design and sew 21 aprons, which will be used by guests during cooking classes in the demonstration kitchen.
Building healthy eating experiences
The Food Club & Opportunity Hub opened last October, located in the former Yff’s neighborhood grocery location at 739 Paw Paw. In just five months, more than 1,200 low-income families have benefited from the Food Club’s membership-based program that provides access to healthy food via a grocery store-style experience.
The demonstration kitchen, located in the adjacent Opportunity Hub, was designed as a venue to provide cooking and nutrition education for Food Club members.
Jennifer Ramos recently joined the CAH team as the healthy eating program coordinator, and is excited to launch the educational pathways in the coming weeks.
Residents of the senior living community, Freedom Village, created a label for the aprons. (CAH)
“Our healthy eating programming will allow us to spread healthy eating education within our community and to Food Club guests,” Ramos says. “We are excited to offer culturally diverse demonstrations, hands-on cooking classes, healthy meal kits, tastings, and increase our community partner engagement. Our goal is to provide the necessary tools to have a healthier lifestyle.”
Cooking classes will cover healthy eating tips, cooking techniques, and recipes for members with health/dietary restrictions. Combined with Food Club’s emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as healthy meal kits and tasting stations, these classes are another way to partner with guests to achieve individual and community goals around increasing healthy eating habits for all.
"CAH likes to emphasize is 'dignity' for shoppers, who can feel that they have choices and services comparable to any supermarket, as opposed to having to accept pre-packaged, food pantry items," says Van Grouw.
Food Club improves access by addressing cost and convenience barriers to healthy eating, and these classes will address cooking knowledge barriers – especially for guests wondering how to cook with new-to-them ingredients.
Along with fresh produce, meat, and dairy, the Food Club & Opportunity Hub aims to provide the tools and resources members need to achieve food access and financial stability. Guests can shop, then stop in at the Opportunity Hub, where resource specialists can connect them to financial education services, foreclosure prevention, and other community resources.