Dr. Tiffaney Threatt, director of the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy’s Wellness Center, was volunteering at the United Ministries food bank when she saw a need to help others be healthier.
“They had all of these fresh fruits and vegetables,” Threatt said. “I commented about how wonderful it is that people can go through there and get the healthy food they need.”
But the staff members at the food bank told Threatt that healthy food choices frequently get skipped. Many in the community don’t know how to cook healthy, they said.
“That’s when it was really put on my heart to help those in the community learn how to choose and cook healthier foods,” Threatt said.
Threatt found out about the Cooking Matters program offered by Clemson University and SNAP-Ed, a program that teaches people how to shop for and cook healthy meals.
Threatt partnered with these organizations to bring the program to Clinton.
From May 14 to June 18, 14 local residents gathered at Broad Street United Methodist Church. There a nutrition educator and chef taught local residents about healthy eating. Content ranged from how to read food labels to how to substitute healthy ingredients for those high in fat, salt or sugar.
Each week the participants cooked a dish together in the kitchen at the church. For example, one week they made a healthier, low-cost version of Hamburger Helper, adding in lean ground turkey instead of hamburger meat, spices instead of salt, and low-fat cheese.
Another week they served up vegetable quesadillas and fresh salsa, and a different week they made homemade pizza covered with fresh vegetables.
“The participants learned different concepts each week about how to think healthier with food,” Threatt said. “Sometimes it’s simply a matter of trading out an unhealthier option for a healthier one. We aren’t so much encouraging people to eat less as we are getting people to add in more healthy foods.”
During the fifth week of the program, the group met at Bi-Lo to learn more about buying healthier food choices on a budget. At the end of the class, each participant received a gift card and was encouraged to plan a healthy meal.
“I’ve learned how to read labels and pay attention to what’s in the food I eat, like carbohydrates,” said Robert Cunningham, of Woodruff.
Cunningham and several other participants learned about the program by taking the diabetes education class Threatt offers at the PC School of Pharmacy.
“I took away more knowledge than I came here with,” Cunningham said.
Each week, the participants took home the groceries needed to make the dish they cooked in class. Pharmacy students donated nearly all of the non-perishable ingredients and money to help buy the items that needed to be fresh or refrigerated.
At the end of the program, the participants also took home the nutrition education guide and cookbook that includes the recipes used in the classes. The hope is that participants make lifestyle changes, a little at a time, to eat healthier.
“Just small changes,” Threatt said.
Now that these participants know more about healthy eating, Threatt is hopeful they will choose healthier foods, such as whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, and share their knowledge with friends and family.
Threatt has plans to offer the class again in a different part of Clinton next time.