Cooking on a Budget With Grow Ohio Valley, West Virginia Northern Community College

Photo by Alec Berry Gene Evans, assistant professor of culinary arts at West Virginia Northern Community College, instructs program participants on how to make cornbread dumplings.

Photo by Alec Berry Gene Evans, assistant professor of culinary arts at West Virginia Northern Community College, instructs program participants on how to make cornbread dumplings.

Grow Ohio Valley has partnered with West Virginia Northern Community College to offer an eight-week course on preparing healthy family meals on a tight budget.

The program, known as “Dinner in a SNAP,” was funded with a $3,000 grant from Try This West Virginia, a statewide coalition advocating healthier lifestyles. Twenty participants will learn three recipes each week at WVNCC’s Culinary Arts Center, and they will prepare these meals at home with use of only a crock pot provided to them by Grow OV.

Kate Marshall, program leader for Grow OV, said many people tend to make poor dietary choices because they cycle through life on a tight schedule. She said it can be daunting for some parents to consider cooking after a day at work. This program, she said, intends to change such behavior.

A crock pot minimizes preparation time, as it’s something anyone can toss ingredients into and let stew while at work.

The recipes offered also consider cost. Grow OV Executive Director Ken Peralta said materials for each of the three weekly recipes can be bought for about $6 and feed the average family — about the average price of any fast food combo.

The program involves people of varying experience in the kitchen. Gene Evans, assistant professor of culinary arts at WVNCC, said no one should feel intimidated by cooking.

“You screw up a meal every once in a while, but it’s not life or death,” he said.

Evans said he wants to help the program’s participants feel comfortable, so they’ll go on and try to cook more often in their lives.

The program primarily focuses on vegetarian recipes, with Grow OV providing free produce to those in attendance. Evans said people usually avoid vegetables because they’re unfamiliar with them, but those in the program said they’re being swayed.

Debra Otterbeck, a resident of Wheeling, said her turn toward a healthy diet was propelled by her diagnosis as pre-diabetic. She learned more about her condition, and made the effort prior to the program. Her blood sugar levels have improved and she wants to continue with the lifestyle change.

“It’s amazing, the difference,” Otterbeck said.

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