Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. A new class in Macon is showing parents and grandparents how to cook nutritious meals for their families on a budget.
The Food Talk program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and offered across Georgia through the University of Georgia Extension Service’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. The class — usually eight, one-hour lessons — is free to participants and caters to people on limited incomes, said Alesia Mays, Bibb County Cooperative Extension’s EFNEP program assistant and class instructor.
Tonja Jordan approached Mays about starting the program at Memorial Gym in Macon, and the class has been meeting on Wednesdays since Oct. 4. The series will be offered again in January.
Over the past three years, Jordan lost more than 100 pounds and became a certified Zumba instructor so she could teach exercise classes to kids and seniors.
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“I was an overweight child and became an overweight adult that raised overweight kids. I want to do my part in preventing childhood obesity,” said Jordan, a unit secretary for Navicent Health. “My goal is to reach as many kids as possible.”
She’s getting kids active through her Zumba class, and Food Talk will help parents prepare more nutritious meals for them. Many people assume they can’t afford to eat healthy, but the program shows them how it can be done, Jordan said.
The curriculum covers reading food labels; keeping cholesterol and blood pressure in check with fruits, vegetables and low-fat foods; saving at the grocery store through smart shopping; eating healthy on the go; and food safety, Mays said. Each session includes interactive discussion, games, a cooking demonstration and food tasting.
“We have a whole lot of fun,” Mays said. “Time goes by so fast. There’s no pressure on them to talk, but they’re going to talk to me anyway because of the way the curriculum is built. I demonstrate the recipes directly in front of them and give them the confidence that they can make it.”
On Nov. 1, they learned how to make fruit parfaits and breakfast burritos at a fraction of restaurant prices and with less sodium and fat content. Mays has also prepared cheesy broccoli soup, creamy chicken and noodles, one-pot spaghetti, chicken salad, crunchy apple salad and fruit smoothies, she said.
Mays said she’s there to coach the participants as they work toward their personal health goals. Many of them come because they want to lose weight, lower their blood pressure or just make healthier food choices. An average eight people attend each class, some bringing their children with them.
Julia Floyd has been watching her weight and taking Jordan’s Zumba classes. She said she signed up for Food Talk so she could learn how to eat right and monitor the sodium intake by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She enjoys sampling the new recipes and then trying them at home.
Email Alesia Mays at email@example.com to register for the next Food Talk series, which will start in January and run for eight weeks. New participants are not being accepted for the current program.