Children First: Local program focused on healthier food alternatives

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- We all enjoy those family recipes that are often handed down from one generation to the next.

But sometimes, your auntie or abuelita's dishes can be filled with too much oil and sugar.

Shakiyla Sutton is participating in Fresno Metro Ministry's Cooking Matters class in Southwest Fresno.

"I've never had mac and cheese with broccoli but I'm down to try anything to get my kid to eat vegetables," said Sutton.

Luis Hernandez is the Food to Share Project Coordinator at Fresno Metro Ministry. He teaches students in the Cooking Matters class how to read food labels and think about ingredients they are using.

"Cooking Matters is a hands on interactive class where we have dialogues around nutrition and we get to cook healthy recipes here in class and so the participants get to cook all the recipes from scratch. They have the tools to understand what a healthy meal is, how to portion out serving sizes," said Hernandez.

Eleven year old Esmeralda Galvan Trujillo is chopping fruit and prepping bread.

"Today I was helping to smash the bread and then we were going to put it in the toaster because we were gonna add the fruits on top like strawberries, banana," said Esmeralda.

Students get useful tips along the way.

Sutton says," Cutting! Like just cutting like vegetables and fruits and even like meat like when he taught us like proper etiquette how to use a knife which I never would have thought of...I'm gonna take that away immediately."

Expressing love through food is common but can lead to extra calories consumed. Students admit it's hard to refuse food offered by family.

Esmeralda lists her favorite Mexican dishes.

"Tamales, pozole, quesadillas, enchiladas," she smiles.

Sutton says, "Definitely in my community you know somebody brings you some cake or something you know, they thought about you and it definitely feels like love. Yeah. And you say no and they're mad."

Hernandez says the class is offered at different sites and has common lessons.

"And then that third week we talk about the family favorites that we have and how we can make them healthier and usually it revolves around you know, cutting back on fat using things like canola oil, or olive oil, cutting back on sugar content and cutting back on the amount of salt that we add to our foods as well. Like say an enchilada, right? If they're going to add chicken to it or they usually add beef, they can substitute it with a vegetarian option like beans or they can try a soy product and adding herbs and spices to the soy. So through through menu planning and, you know reading food labels, they can make better decisions for themselves throughout the week. So when they do get together with the family, and they're being offered more tortillas and more. More tamales, you know it's it's okay. It's okay to indulge every once in a while but everything in moderation," said Hernandez.

Students are given food to take home and ten dollar gift cards to shop for healthy ingredients.

Sutton says, "We all really didn't know each other before starting the class. But once we got in here, we're all just family."

Esmeralda likes the teamwork as well. "I actually learned something really important which we also talked about at school... working a group," said Esmeralda.

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