December 16, 2017
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Cary Completes ‘Dress Rehearsal’ of Cary Kids Cook

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Earlier this year Cary Medical Center received a grant from the Walmart Foundation to initiate a program focused on helping families to cook healthy foods on a budget. After working with local churches, and developing a plan to recruit families for the first ‘pilot’ session, Cary Kids Cook, was held in Caribou and Presque Isle. The eight week program completed in August and according to Anna Blackstone, the coordinator of the program, both children and parents were excited and very enthusiastic.
“This was kind of a dress rehearsal to work out any problems and to see how the outline of
our program would work in practice”, said Blackstone who directed the program in Presque Isle. “We were very pleased with the children’s response and parents who attended the program with their children expressed positive comments as well. We are now ready to launch our formal program in the towns of Van Buren and Washburn. We are working with the school communities to recruit six families from each town into the program.”
Keacha Corey, a mother of four, in Caribou said that her daughter had a great experience with Cary Kids Cook.
“We couldn’t make it to all of the 8 week sessions but the program really had a lasting impact on my daughter”, said Corey. “She was excited to go the classes, even on a Saturday and she really learned some practical cooking skills. She never was much interested in cooking before the class and now she is
really motivated to cook and try new things, including healthy meals. I hope we can participate again.”
The program hopes to launch its next eight week series and include a certain amount of data collection to evaluate the success of the program. Bill Flagg, Director of Community Relations and Development at Cary Medical Center who oversees the hospital’s grant programs, said that Cary Kids Cook was a little harder to get going than he anticipated.
“We felt that recruiting kids into this program would be the easy part”, said Flagg who is working to expand the program. “We used a variety of approaches but we were not able to recruit a full class until late spring. The classes ran over the summer and with vacations and other conflicts we did not complete the ‘pilot’ program until August. But we learned a lot and now we feel confident that the program will really take off.”
For the next series of classes the program will work with the school department to get the word out to 6, 7 and 8th grade students and families. Once enrolled in the 8 week program the students will take an initial quiz to measure their cooking skills, their routine nutritional habits and their knowledge of healthy foods. The students will then go through the 8 week program and be assessed again at the end of the program. They will also be given a basic skills test where they will be asked to demonstrate what they have learned.
The program follows a set of guidelines developed by the project staff. Children will learn basic skills in cutting up vegetables, measuring, menu reading, spices, and will actually prepare a meal for a family of four. At the end of the 3 hour cooking class they will be able to bring what they have prepared home with them and enjoy the meal over the weekend.
“We know it is difficult sometimes to eat healthy on a tight budget”, said program coordinator Blackstone. “That was the real purpose of our program to try and teach families how they can use healthy, whole foods economically, and to provide the food for a family of four. Every family seemed to enjoy this part of the program.”
At the end of the recent demonstration session, children in the program wrote letters to thank Walmart for the program. All food, materials, and take home containers are provided free of charge to program participants. While the program requests that each child be accompanied by a parent or guardian it is not a mandate of the program.
“It’s really ideal if parents can attend with their child, it really helps to reinforce the messaging and the parent can follow up on what is learned when they get home”, said Blackstone. “However we did not want this to be a barrier for children who want to do the program and many parents have to work on Saturdays or have other children at home. That is why we have intentionally chosen to keep the classes small with a maximum of six families for each session.”
Flyers and registration forms for the next series of classes will be going out next week in Washburn and Van Buren. Anyone interested in learning more about the program may call the Community Relations office at Cary Medical Center at 498-1112.