When Carol Baldwin headed into Food Lion on Raleigh Boulevard recently, she noticed something.
“And, of course, I’m nosy,” she said, chuckling softly. “I wanted to see what was going on, so I gave it a try.”
Baldwin walked away knowing a little more about how to plan, buy and cook her meals. That newfound knowledge will help her better manage her diagnoses of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Baldwin was among about a dozen people who showed up for Food Day, part of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Cooking Matters at the Store, one of four free nutritional programs that teach people how to choose, cook and eat healthy food on a budget. The program provides opportunities to see, taste, cook and buy it – the nutritional way.
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I’ve written a lot about how the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle attacks hunger in our area through mobile markets, community gardens, fresh produce stands and food-filled backpacks sent home from school on weekends and during summer months.
Cooking Matters at the Store goes beyond food giveaways.
“This really taught me how to eat a more balanced diet, especially when it comes to portion control,” said Baldwin, 55. “I grew up with the old food chain and the way it was delivered. Alternatives were opened up to me – things you actually know, but actually doing and seeing those things opened my eyes to how to prepare my food.”
The Food Day tours stop at five Food Lion grocery stores that partner in the program as part of the Food Lion Feeds program. Three stores are in Midtown, and there’s one in Zebulon and in Durham.
“It’s very much a balance between hunger relief, nutrition education and budgeting,” said Jill Brown, director of nutrition education for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. “The overarching goal is to help shoppers at risk of hunger understand all the tools that are in the grocery store to help them make the most nutritious choice, while staying on a budget.”
The tours begin in the produce section and move to frozen foods, meats, canned, dairy, breads and grains, and so on. In each section, participants are led through discussions and comparisons of nutritional value, from salt and fat to added sugar, and from the seasonality of foods to advantages, or disadvantages, of buying in bulk. The group also talked about conversions from grams to teaspoons.
Afterwards, they shopped. Using a $10 Food Lion gift card donated by the stores, participant practiced what they learned to buy a nutritious, balanced meal within that budget.
Shirley Johnson was thrilled to get tips on how to get more food, for cheaper, and how to read labels.
“I would like to do it again and again, and bring different people with me so they can learn, too, because I learned a lot I didn’t know,” she said.
Joanne Perry toured with her sister, Terri Medlin.
“It was worth the time,” said Perry, 60, a “long-time-ago” cooking school graduate. “It reinforced what I already knew, and it was a good experience to learn more, especially about new varieties of food coming out now – almond and lactose-free milk, and whole aisles of different kind of yogurt, cereal and bread.”
Perry wants her four grandchildren, ages 2 to 9, and other children to take the tour.
“They already have cooking competitions at my house, so this would be like a little field trip for them,” she said.
Baldwin expects one memento from her impromptu field trip – the green reusable shopping bag, to keep the new things she learned front and center.
“You can go into a classroom and learn a lot of things, but actually seeing and doing can teach you not just how to feed yourself, but about balance,” she said. “Otherwise, the long-term effects are awful, like diabetes and high blood pressure. Those are hard things to manage, so it’s good to have it all refreshed.”