As local food proponents try to encourage folks to eat more locally-grown fruits and vegetables, one of the issues I hear often is "People don't know how to cook anymore!" This certainly isn't a problem unique to Appalachia, but losing this skill not only costs families money (prepackaged food is usually more expensive than the ingredients to make it) it contributes to unhealthy lifestyles, as people rely more on TV dinners or fast food. A program in Parkersburg, WV is hoping to change this, starting with the youngest eaters.
Last month, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel wrote about local resident Laura Foutty's efforts to teach children about healthy cooking and eating. Based at the Parkersburg Farmer's Market, the "I am a Chef" program features local chefs showing kids how to make their own healthy meals, like veggie pizzas.
"We want to teach kids to eat healthy and teach them how to cook," Foutty said. Day nurseries have been invited to bring their children to the cooking shows.
Foutty hopes this summer program at the farmers' market leads to the establishment of an academy behind Parkersburg South High School where children would learn about cooking, canning, gardening, playing a musical instrument, theater, fire safety, sports and other healthy topics.
When people know how to grow, cook and preserve their own produce, the benefits are numerous: better health, a smaller grocery bill, a sense of self-sufficiency and food security. Parkersburg isn't the only place realizing this, either. Farmers' Markets in Wytheville, VA; Jonesborough, TN; and Big Stone Gap, VA are all offering cooking demonstrations throughout the summer, Henderson Settlement School (Bell County, KY) offers canning and preservation classes, and county extension offices across the region are helping to educate folks on how to cook a sweet potato or what to do with all those tomatoes at the height of summer. Check out our events calendar to see some of these offerings. What efforts do you know of that are helping folks rediscover the lost arts of cooking and canning?