There’s nothing quite like sharing a wonderful meal with others, especially when you made the food.
Eight local seniors from the SOS Seniors Are Talking program are cooking and sharing meals weekly, in the Food Skills for Active Seniors program at Family Place.
The program is an initiative of the Canadian Diabetes Association, with funding from the Ministry of Health. Seniors Are Talking members get transported to and from the program by the SOS bus. Miranda Cockayne facilitates the program, teaching cooking techniques and educating on food and healthy eating. She runs her own business in Parksville offering Cook for Health! workshops.
Gweynneth Evans is a Seniors Are Talking member and is currently taking the program. She said she enjoys the food and the company. “I like that it’s an outing and it is nice to eat with other people, because when you’re on your own, you eat alone a lot,” she said.
Shelley St. Marie is the Seniors Are Talking Coordinator at SOS. She said she came across the program when doing research on topics that are relevant and important to seniors. This is the second time she has signed up a group of her members.
“The members in the last class very much enjoyed it, they learned many things they didn’t know and appreciated being able to prepare the food and then eat it, taking any leftovers home,” said St. Marie.
Food Skills for Active Seniors runs for six weeks and focuses on cooking healthy food from scratch, increasing seniors’ fruit and vegetable intake, and reducing the amount of salt, sugar and fat they consume.
Seniors each get a cookbook on the first day of the class which they work through during the program, sharing the food at the end of each session. Menu items have included hummus and pita, roasted vegetables, skillet lasagna, tofu, goat cheese and bean quesadillas, fish chowder and a variety of desserts including peach apple cobbler. Every week the menu items get a little more challenging, as seniors’ cooking skills improve.
As they share their meals, they talk about the food, why it’s healthy, and whether they’ve cooked with the items before.
“It’s really trying to give people confidence in the kitchen to try new recipes and also eating new things you’ve never tried before,” said Cockayne.
Cockayne said the feedback from the last Seniors Are Talking group has been positive and many of them have increased their fruit and vegetable intake since taking the course.
Phyllis Maughan is taking the course right now and said she likes working with Miranda who is very knowledgeable about food. She also enjoys the company, and is pleased she’s learning new ways to prepare food, including meals suitable for diabetics.
Program participant Beverly Cattley said she was interested in taking the course to give herself more confidence to cook new things. Some of the ingredients they’ve used she wouldn’t have thought to combine, she said, and they were delicious.
St. Marie said she is very impressed with the program.
“This information will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
For more information on the Food Skills for Families program visit www.foodskillsforfamilies.ca or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the Cook for Health! workshops email Cockayne at email@example.com.
SOS offers more than 30 programs to residents of all ages throughout the year, helping residents lead happy, healthy and productive lives. For more information visit www.sosd69.com.
At Christmas time, the SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas program ensures all individuals and families can enjoy a meaningful meal with dignity, by selecting food using a local grocery store gift card, purchased by SOS with funds donated by the community. The Christmas program also enables all local children and youth to unwrap a special gift Christmas morning.
Donate to the program online, by phone (250-248-2093) or visit the SOS Child, Youth & Family Centre in Parksville (245 West Hirst Ave. Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.). People can also donate at Qualicum Commons (744 Primrose St.) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. New, unwrapped gifts are also gratefully accepted at both locations during the stated times.
— By Lissa Alexander, SOS