NORTH CONWAY — Twelve families had the chance to eat, cook and play together at the Slow Cooker program offered to Conway Elementary School families this fall. The six week lesson series was available through a collaboration between UNH Cooperative Extension, Memorial Hospital, and Conway Elementary School. All participants were given a slow cooker, a meal during class, and ingredients to a recipe to cook at home.
Each week dinner was made ahead of time in a slow cooker with the recipe they would be bringing home that day. This gave participants the chance to see and taste what they were making in class. During meal times they could talk about what they might do to modify the recipe, or change ingredients or cooking times to improve the meal for their individual tastes.
Once the meal was over parents helped their children chop vegetables and add ingredients together in a freezer bag to take home. During this time participants practiced knife skills, food safety, and ways to include their children in the cooking process. This gave families a chance to set aside an hour or more with their children to engage with them during meals and cooking. They focused on showing their young chefs how to use a knife, measure ingredients, and wash their hands and dishes correctly.
After all the food was eaten, prepped and cleaned up the parents and children split up for a quick lesson tailored to each age group. The children joined Memorial Hospital’s Justine Fierman, FHP-BC, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE and Brenda McKay, RD, LD, who had youth based nutrition lessons and games with a focus on diabetes prevention. The parents joined UNH Cooperative Extension Nutrition Connections’ Joy Gagnon to learn more about reading food labels, identifying whole grains, increasing family physical activity and shopping wisely.
This program was only made possible through a collaboration between UNH Cooperative Extension, Memorial Hospital and Conway Elementary School. Cooperative Extension’s Nutrition Connections Program provided the nutrition lessons and organized the lesson series. Conway Elementary recruited families and provided teacher volunteers to help setup, clean up and support the hospital staff with the youth each week. Memorial Hospital provided generous funds to purchase slow cookers, chefs knives and food for all the families as well as staff to facilitate the classes. The Mount Washington Valley Kiwanis Club had supported Memorial’s Miranda Leavitt Diabetes Fund which made the hospital’s support possible. This strong collaboration allowed for a smooth, well organized program that was fun for everyone involved.
UNH Cooperative Extension’s Nutrition Connections program offers free nutrition education to income eligible individuals and families interested in learning more about eating healthy on a budget. Participants learn about making healthy choices that they can live with. Many families or older adults are busy with work, school, sports or doctors’ appointments, and everyone knows that the busier people are the harder it is to eat right. The slow cooker program has been a fun way for participants to learn more about using a slow cooker to prepare healthy, homemade meals when life is busy.
Conway Elementary School recruited families from the school through flyers and personal outreach. Each week a different Health and Wellness Committee Member from the school volunteered to help in whatever capacity possible. These volunteers are an invaluable part of this team and their support helped the class run smoothly.
For more information on the Miranda Leavitt Diabetes Fund or the Miranda Center for Diabetes at Memorial Hospital, go to www.memorialhospitalnh.org/diabetes.
Memorial Hospital diabetes nurse practitioner Justine Fierman teaches a Conway Elementary School student some tips on good nutrition at a recent cooking program co-sponsored by the hospital and the UNH Cooperative Extension. (COURTESY PHOTO)