‘I’ve observed an enormous distinction’: Saskatoon meals financial institution Meals Match program a recipe for wholesome residing

We’ve all been there, staring into the food pantry, wishing for the culinary skills needed to transform a hodge podge collection of items into a mouth-watering meal.

I can cook anything from anything.– Felicia Chamberlain

Consider that same gastronomical dilemma with the added pressure of knowing that the challenging collection of ingredients you’re staring at represents all of the food available to your family.

“We create meals using very simple basic tools which help them graduate the program and navigate this increasingly complex food environment that we are experiencing now,” said Chelsea Szachury in an interview with CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning.

Szachury is with the Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre.

For about a year now, the food bank has been teaching people how to prepare delicious healthy meals, and to put those high-quality calories to good use through its Food Fit program.

Felicia Chamberlain is a graduate of Food Fit.

“I can cook anything from anything my husband says.”

Recently, the now culinary confident Chamberlain cooked up a Shepard’s Pie using some veggie burgers that came in her food bank hamper, a meal that drew rave reviews from her family.

“They gobbled the whole two trays up,” Chamberlain said.

Felicia Chamberlain, shown here in a shirt that evolved from a tight fit to loose throughout the course of the program, shows off one of her many successes in the kitchen. (Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre)

The food bank has partnered with the Community Food Centres of Canada, which developed the curriculum, and Medavie Health Foundation, which is funding the program.

It’s aimed at low income families, and runs for 12 weeks. Participants begin by going over a check list designed to find out exactly how much they know about food preparation. Fitness is also a part of this journey, and so general health indicators such as blood pressure and weight are also noted.

Participants cook together, eat together, and exercise together.

“Canadians are supposed to do 30 minutes a day. A lot of people don’t know how to do 30 minutes a day, do they walk, do they do yoga, do they stretch? So, we incorporate 30 minutes into our classes and I’ve noticed a huge difference in all of our participants,” said Szachury.

Dancing in the kitchen

For Chamberlain, this part of the program is also a big success. She would wear the same T-shirt whenever health-related data was collected, and in the beginning that red shirt was form-fitting, and now Chamberlain noted that “it’s like free flowing!”

Seeing those results, Chamberlain has adopted a more active lifestyle, walking more and attending regular fitness classes.

A measure of cooking skills and a dash of fitness have proven to be key ingredients in an overall recipe for change that has had a big impact on Chamberlain. Not only is Chamberlain enjoying the glowing reviews of her cooking, her step is a little lighter.

“I am doing yoga stretches every time I dance around my house.”

Participants in the program cook together, eat together and exercise together. (Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre )

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