Alternative class gets lessons for life, learns that… YES, YOU CAN EAT AT HOME

IMG_0008 Michaela Hicka prepares ground beef. (The Enterprise/John Braese)

By John L. Braese
The Enterprise

Wednesday, March 9 marked graduation day for a group of students at the Oregon Trail Learning Center.

It wasn’t a graduation where diplomas were handed out; instead, aprons and certificate of completions marked the occasion.

The 14 students completed a six-week program focused on how to take their favorite foods and adjust their menu to make it healthier. It was sponsored by the Ontario chapter of the Oregon Food Bank and the organization, Share Our Strength.

“The program teaches healthy cooking, how to budget food dollars and uses simple recipes that can be made easily at home,” said Tami Hart, instructor of the classes and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Ontario branch of the Oregon Food Bank. “We utilize food items that are commonly found in the local food pantries.”

The premise of using items found at local pantries is important, considering that 873,129 pounds of food was distributed through the local food banks last year. That indicates many families must build meals around what they obtain from the local banks.

“We are showing these kids how they can eat healthy, nutritious meals on a budget,” Hart said.

The class is not only for high school students. To date, Hart has provided the class to six other groups including Malheur County Council on Aging.

“It truly runs the gamut of people looking for assistance on how to eat healthy on a budget,” said Hart.

One of the graduates learned he doesn’t need to keep running back to the store if a recipe calls for certain ingredients. Substituting items is allowable.

“I learned you can use other items if you are out of something,” said Vale junior Willis Hester. “You can use broccoli in place of cauliflower.”

Hester took some of the recipes learned in the class home and made dinner for his family.

“I plan on continuing using some of the ideas,” Hester said.

Fellow junior Madison Vargas not only learned more about the ingredients, but about measuring them.

“I learned quite a bit about the utensils used in measuring for recipes,” Vargas said.

Like Hester, Vargas has also taken some of what she learned and treated family members to her creation.

“I made the banana bread recipe for my family and they really liked it,” said Vargas.

Hart is currently looking to expand the program. In many cases, community partners have offered kitchens while all ingredients and accessories needed are picked up by the program. All Hart needs is people ready and willing to give some time to learn more about nutritious, healthy cooking.

“We would love to offer this program to more people in the county,” said Hart.

While this class was for students, the program is also offered for anyone interested in cooking nutritious meals at home and on a budget. For information or to schedule a group for the program, contact Tami Hart at 541-889-9206.