Food for the Journey: Nutrition on a Budget is a six week nutrition program currently being offered through the parish of St. Stephen and St. Bede. St. Stephen and St. Bede is an Anglican-Lutheran parish in St. James that has been working together long before any of the official links between Anglicans and Lutherans were in place.
The priest there is Reverend Murray Still. Murray and I served together as honourary assistants at Holy Trinity several years ago. I’m always interested in what is happening in Murray’s life as a priest, so when he posted Food for the Journey as a Facebook event, I decided I’d check it out.
The program is being taught by Dominique Chell, a third year nutrition student at the University of Manitoba. I arrived early for the event and had a few minutes to talk with her. The first thing that I discovered is Ms. Chell is a lifelong member of the parish. As we talked a little bit more and I asked here how this related to studies, she told me that while it was a chance to put into practice what she was learning, Food for the Journey wasn’t part of any class assignment, but a chance for her to share her passion for nutrition with her parish family.
In addition to creating this program, Ms. Chell also volunteers with Healthy Start for Mom and Me. This program operates out of Knox United downtown and has several locations in Winnipeg’s core area. Plus, she also volunteers doing clinical work at Deer Lodge hospital..
The course will run for five more weeks. Every Monday from 6:30pm to 8 at Mount Royal Christian Center. The address is 99 Turner Avenue. There is a suggested donation of $10 to help cover the cost of the food. This $10 covers all six weeks. However, if you can’t afford this and would really like to learn more about nutrition don’t let that stop you from coming.
There’s a couple of reasons I’m really pleased to see this program happening. One, I like it when churches run programs that are for the benefit of the wider community. Two, when I was talking to Murray, I discovered that the program was Ms. Chell’s to start with. It’s also really good when ideas come from the pews rather than the pulpit.
Food for the Journey: The Program
The handout we were given at the start of the evening describes the goal of the program:
Increase your healthy eating strategies by applying the knowledge and skills gained from this nutrition series into your own life.
- Week 1: Food Literacy and nutrition label reading
- Week 2: Low-cost foods and meal planning
- Week 3: Nutrition through the life cycle and disease states
- Week 4: Food security and community resources
- Week 5: Food handling safety
- Week 6: Breaking the barriers to healthy eating for life
The first session, which I attended yesterday, revolved around the Canada Food Guide and learning how to read nutrition labels. One of the first things I noticed in Ms. Chells presentation, was that while she valued the Food Guide, she also warned participants of its limitations.
Throughout the presentation, Ms. Chells maintains an easy rapport with her audience. She knew her material and was able to interact well and deal with any questions raised. As she described the nutrition labels, she did a good job in explaining how you had to read carefully since not all labels use the same measurements at all times. For example, one type of cereal may describe a serving as 1/2 a cup, while another might use 3/4. In such case you can’t simply compare straight across. A 1/2 serving with 9 grams of sugar, actual has more relative sugar per cup than a 3/4 cup with 11grams of sugar.
Along with explaining nutritional labels, we also learned about nutritional claims and health claims. Each of the three categories are regulated. The labels are the most regulated and the health claims the least. So, treat health claims with some measure of skepticism. That is not to say dismiss them, but they won’t necessarily have been held to the most rigorous of standards.
In addition to the providing a lot of information to take away, Ms. Chell also made the Food for the Journey event an enjoyable one. The evening started with a chance to get to each other by introducing ourselves and naming a food we like and one we dislike. I went with two related ones. I love blueberry pie and I hate pumpkin pie.
Each person also entered their name into a draw. At the end of the class one person’s name was drawn and they won a prize. This week it was a bag of pistachios. Finally, there was a snack. We made fruit and yogourt parfaits. This allowed us to visit around the table and talk a little more about food and nutrition and share some of our own experiences.
If you want to learn more about nutrition, and about eating well on a budget, I recommend Food for the Journey. You don’t need to attend all sessions. While Ms. Chell is building on what has been taught each week, each session has enough value in itself to be worthwhile attending.