TERRE HAUTE —
The smell of Sloppy Garden Joes wafted through the kitchen at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, where participants in a healthy cooking program eagerly awaited samples of the fare.
Three instructors, under the guidance of Purdue extension educator Katarina Walker, chopped carrots, onions and peppers, which they would combine with cooked ground turkey and other ingredients.
Thirty-three people attended the first of four sessions of Whip It Up Wednesday, a workshop for parents and caregivers to gain a better understanding of how to prepare simple, quick and healthy meals for families.
When it was over, those who attended took home the recipes as well as the ingredients necessary to make it at home. They even received a voucher to purchase the meat at Baesler’s.
Perhaps the best part for participants — in addition to sampling the Sloppy Garden Joe — is that everything is free.
Program partners are United Way of the Wabash Valley, Purdue Extension and CHANCES for Indiana Youth. Whip It Up Wednesday is an outgrowth of a Community Health Initiative Committee, said Billie Kaufman, of CHANCES.
United Way received a grant through the Indiana Association of United Ways, and part of it is being used to fund the program, said Mark Johnson, of United Way.
As Walker lead the session, the three cooks at different stations prepared the food. Throughout, Walker also provided information related to food safety.
Among those attending was Jessica Harkness, 25, a single parent who has a 13-week-old son. “I wanted to learn recipes to cook at home that are healthy and easy. Being a mom, you’re cooking all the time and sometimes you want new ideas,” she said. She’s also in the Healthy Families program.
Becky Smith, who has three children, 9-year-old twins and a 7-year-old, wanted to learn how to prepare healthy meals for her children.
“I’m taking a nutrition class at school, and apparently I’ve been feeding them all wrong all this time,” she said. She’s trying to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in meals and smaller meat portions.
She’s studying early childhood education at Ivy Tech.
Also attending were Candice and Chris Johnson, who have three children. “We thought this would be a good way to learn some new techniques and new recipes,” Chris Johnson said.
Jenny Horne, 19, doesn’t have any children but she wants to expand her cooking skills beyond what she normally makes — typically, Hamburger Helper with ground turkey.
At one point, as instructor Holly Mullenix demonstrated how to make the healthy sloppy joes, Harkness helped cook the ground turkey and added some of the ingredients. “It seems like it’s made from scratch,” Harkness said.
Other ingredients included canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms and barbecue sauce.
The program also includes free childcare and free cooking utensils. Those who attend all four workshops win their choice of a free electric or five-quart skillet.
Whip It Up Wednesday has reached its capacity as far as number of participants, Kaufman said.
Johnson noted that another, related initiative under consideration is a mobile market that would sell fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices in areas where residents might have limited access to those items.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.