Free Health Matters in Cooking class at Campbell Park Rec. Center

Cooking Class, featured

BY JEFFREY ZANKER, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Starting April 19 at 6 p.m., Campbell Park Recreation will play host to Cooking Matters for Adults, a free six-week nutrition/ cooking class that teaches cooking healthy food on a budget, cooking skills and much more.

The program is part of the Family Nutrition Program (FNP) of the University of Florida’s Cooperative Extension Service and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the United States Department of Agriculture, also known for nutrition guides and economic benefits for millions of low-income individuals and families.

Free Health 2, featured

The instructor will be Donna Hortz, who serves as program assistant for the FNP. The major lessons will be the importance of preparing meals, understanding the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables and saving on their limited food budget.

“Our goal is to get people healthy who work on a tight budget,” Hortz said.

For SNAP-eligible members, they get a certain amount of food stamps every month to buy groceries. Their budget is determined by income and household size.

Nan C. Jensen, Extension Agent IV for UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Services, pointed out that though SNAP benefits are more supplement than a benefactor, the program’s goal is to get participants to make wiser food choices.

“SNAP’s goal is to help maximize the nutrition value of that food they put in the grocery cart,” Jensen said.

The first four weeks focuses on cooking and food safety. Each participant will receive ingredients to make each recipe. Some of the dishes Hortz has prepared include Chinese vegetable stir-fry and baked chicken with glazed carrots.

The last two lessons will focus on shopping. The class will take a trip to a local store to buy the necessary ingredients under a $10 budget, leading to the “Shop Challenge,” where teams compete by buying an array of ingredients to make an assigned meal.

Working on community-based projects for SNAP individuals and families, Hortz has been with the University of Florida since 2014, but she’s been in the business of food for years. From a chef to owning her own catering company to becoming a culinary instructor in New York City and in California, she has worked in many aspects of the food industry. She’s even judged international food shows and held lectures on preserving and canning food.

Past class attendees, Hortz said, have found the program beneficial in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. She hopes that this gives participants a chance to eat their veggies.

“It’s a new way of looking at food,” Jensen said.

Sign up today, space is limited. Contact Jerelyn Rutzler of UF/IFAS Extension at (727) 582-2463 or jerutzler@pinellascounty.org.

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