One of our favorite parts of SFC’s The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre®’s community classes is the amazing groups we get to partner with when they host our classes. This spring, we have been lucky to work with Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, Martin Middle School, and Cook Elementary, and we are especially thrilled to be back at Foundation Communities. We just started a series at their Skyline Terrace property, and we recently finished another at their brand new Capital Studios property. Capital Studios is the first new affordable housing community built in the downtown area in over 45 years!
Foundation Communities provides affordable, supportive housing for thousands of families and individuals through their 18 living communities throughout Austin and North Texas. Residents at Foundation Communities get much more than an affordable place to stay. Foundation Communities offers educational opportunities, financial literacy support, and a variety of healthy living programs around mental and physical health, including our very own Happy Kitchen classes.
Working with Foundation Communities has been a fun and meaningful challenge for our Happy Kitchen facilitators. Before each series, facilitators are asked to choose recipes from our cookbook. We consider things like seasonality, affordability, and timing for a 90 minute class. We try to consider what might be most meaningful for class participants, like choosing recipes that kids could help with when we do classes for parents at schools, but there are usually still a variety of options.
With Foundation Communities, however, we were extra careful with recipe choices. We know that many participants are on a particularly tight budget, and that they get some of their food from on-site food pantries. We know that most residents don’t have access to special cooking equipment, like a blender, and that there are sometimes transportation and financial barriers to getting to the store to pick up supplementary ingredients. This is important because after each of the first five classes in a series, participants get to take home most of the ingredients so they can try the recipes themselves. Since we can’t send highly perishable items, like meat or dairy, we wouldn’t want to make pancakes and assume everyone would already have or could easily get their own milk and eggs.
Our careful consideration paid off because class facilitators reported that participants loved the recipes! One of the most popular recipes was guacamole. All of the ingredients are fresh, so participants leave class with everything they need to make the recipe. We also chose a few recipes that showcased staple ingredients that might be found at a food pantry, such a rice and beans, and we tried to show them in unique ways, like adding beans to a quinoa salad, or making an easy vegetable curry to serve over rice.
Participant feedback on our class surveys was also overwhelmingly positive. 100% of participants surveyed said that they now use the nutrition fact label, they use new cooking techniques, and they gained knowledge and skills to make healthier choices. On top of all that, they said that they will share what they learned with family and friends! When asked about the biggest change they made because of the series, participants mentioned better ideas for healthier foods, watching what they buy, and paying more attention to grains and protein.
Thanks to all class participants and to Foundation Communities for hosting us!