RUMFORD — Stacey Morrison really likes the Cooking Matters program at Mountain Valley High School.
She and her two children, along with several other families, attend the special session every week.
“I like to involve the children. I get a lot of good tips,” she said.
On Monday, parents were learning to make barley jambalaya while the children were learning about healthy fruit snacks from Gail Cutting, owner of Grandma’s House Bakery and Gardens.
The six-week session is a cooperative effort by the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition, the Western Maine Kids Association After School program, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, with help from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank and several businesses.
Each week, participants learn more nutritious ways to prepare meals.
Kate Chaisson, a Cooperative Extension nutrition associate, was showing parents how to read labels which can result in eating healthier.
“This is a great group of ladies who want to eat more healthily. We want people cooking together, then sitting down to eat together,” she said.
Barbara Radmore, director of the Western Maine Kids Association After School program, said the only problem that has arisen is people don’t want to leave after the end of a session, which is a good thing, she said.
“Kids can’t wait to see each other each week. The families have bonded,” she said.
Special guest Monday night was Phil Learned, a now-retired, longtime chef at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H. He lives in Andover and plans to return to teach families how to prepare sweet and sour chicken.
Once the recipe of the night was prepared, everyone sat down to eat. And to help encourage continued healthy eating, each family received all the ingredients and the recipe for barley jambalaya to make at home sometime during the week.
Last week, participants created black bean quesadillas and several had good luck making their own for their families, Carol Emery of RVHCC said.
Chaisson focused on the goodness of whole grains. She explained the parts of the grain and which are the most nutritious, as well as how to read a product label to learn what part of the grain is used.
She said, too, that sometimes, frozen vegetables, such as peppers, are cheaper and just as nutritious as fresh ones. She also advised using at least some whole wheat flour in place of white flour.
Morrison said she learned that some brands and varieties of pasta have whole grains and fewer carbohydrates.
Dixfield resident Kelly Saindon said she also enjoys coming to the sessions.
“My 9-year-old likes to cook and I feel I contribute a lot,” she said.
The six-session program ends in late March. A graduation ceremony will be held for all who complete it, Radmore said.
And because many more families are on the waiting list, a second session will likely begin in late March or April, Chaisson said.
Those interested in getting on the list may call Radmore at 562-7254, ext.