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New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity Partners With Second Harvest for Cooking Matters for Adults

Person getting a plate of meatballs.

For the second Saturday in a row, NOAHH homeowners and AmeriCorps members gathered at NOAHH’s model home in the Upper Ninth Ward to learn about healthy cooking from Second Harvest Food Bank. Though many of he homeowners signed up as part of their Habitat sweat equity, they were reaping the benefits of the program with enthusiasm.

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Describing why she took the class, partner family member Kewanda Carr said, “We get to cook something new. We get groceries at the end of the class. And we get hours for doing it. It just works out so well.”

Joining NOAHH’s many programs focusing on a wider approach to the mission of eliminating poverty housing in New Orleans, the cooking class is offered free to partner families and AmeriCorps members. It is called Cooking Matters for Adults, and it is a six week course that is held on Saturdays this fall.

“This program challenges families to take health into their own hands, empowering them to learn and grow with others in their community,” said Kate McDonald, Nutrition Education Coordinator with Second Harvest. “We believe that the missions of Habitat for Humanity and Cooking Matters are directly aligned in their multi-faceted approach to providing services in New Orleans.”

At their second class, homeowners learned to make spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs, the nutritional value of fiber, and more. Already, those taking the class have discovered just how great the food can be. When asked about what he had enjoyed so far, homeowner Jameson Warren said, “We made a salad with fruit last week, and I didn’t think it would taste very good. But it turned out to be really good. We finished the bowl.”

The course will teach NOAHH partner families and AmeriCorps members how to cook delicious, healthy foods, save money on groceries, as well as how to read and understand nutrition labels. The course will provide students with groceries each week for the recipes taught, a cookbook and buying guide, a reusable grocery bag, a cutting board, a food thermometer, and a gift card to local grocery chain Rouses.

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The multi-faceted approach NOAHH has embraced includes a program known as the New Orleans Habitat Urban Garden (HUG) Initiative. As part of NOAHH’s commitment to fighting poverty housing in the New Orleans area, the New Orleans HUG Initiative is designed to improve neighborhoods by fighting blight, providing healthy food to locals, and beautifying otherwise empty lots.

“Hunger is a major issue, especially among lower-income families,” said Jim Pate, executive director of NOAHH. “And part of the spectrum of issues that is exacerbated by poverty housing. Through our HUG Initiative and opportunities like the Cooking Matters program, we hope to alleviate the issue as part of our mission to help more people break the cycle of poverty.”

The Cooking Matters program has served 11,000 families since its inception in 1993. About 85% of students in the program graduate. Cooking Matters is a program of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana in partnership with Share Our Strength, the leading national organization working to end childhood hunger in America.

NOAHH has 38 community garden lots across the city in partnership with 10 local organizations. These lots help supply fresh vegetables and fruit to their neighborhoods, serve to beautify otherwise empty lots, save NOAHH on maintenance fees, and contribute to the on-going community improvement NOAHH supports.

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