In October of 2013, Jeleiny signed up for Cooking Matters at the Beverly Children’s Learning Center where her 6-year old daughter, Danna attends an after-school program.
She was hoping to learn how to prepare meals outside of her traditional Dominican repertoire and gain a broader understanding of nutrition. Six months after graduating from the course Jeleiny has fond memories and reports sustaining the positive behavior changes that emerged during the course.
Jeleiny still vividly remembers the fifth week: the class trip to the grocery store where she utilized her newly acquired shopping skills to buy more than enough food to make a healthy meal for her family for under 10 dollars. After that trip, she began planning meals ahead of time, creating a list of necessary ingredients, and says now she never shops hungry! As an empowered consumer, she always reads the nutrition facts label to check the serving size on packages. She recalls learning that “a small bag of chips may have two servings in it… but you are going to eat the whole thing!” Her diet has diversified to include more fruits and vegetables by using the cooking techniques from class. She recently recounted, “I learned to try different vegetables I wouldn’t normally eat, like grating zucchini on pizza”. In addition, her daughter Danna is engaged in meal preparation and can often be found pouring and mixing ingredients. Jeleiny noticed that they spend more time together as a family during mealtime.
In January of 2014, Jeleiny’s mother, Janet came to live with Jeleiny and Danna. Jeleiny works at a local college and is also taking classes to become a Spanish teacher. Janet is often home alone or taking care of Danna. Jeleiny wanted to give her mother the chance to get out of the house and expose her to new healthy cooking techniques so she encouraged her to sign up for the next Cooking Matters course, which started in April. Janet only speaks Spanish, so Jeleiny accompanies her to class to aid with translation. If Janet has nutrition questions she discusses them with Jeleiny at home. Janet is attentive and helpful during class and after just three weeks in the course Jeleiny explained that her mom had made each of the recipes presented in class multiple times per week. Often Jeleiny often doesn’t get back until late in the day from her college classes and Janet surprises her with an already prepared Cooking Matters dinner. When Jeleiny, Janet and Danna are all at home for dinner they report cooking together, trying new foods and enjoying the varied menu. The three’s favorite is the pita pizza, with its potential for an endless variety of toppings.
Danna ran in at the end of last week’s class and was clearly excited to see her mom and grandmother as she happily drank a smoothie with spinach in it. Jeleiny bragged, “She’s a good eater- she will eat anything!” It is special and rare to have a graduate come back and help a family member out in a class. Jeleiny's positive memories enhance the atmosphere of camaraderie and cohesiveness created when a group comes together to learn and prepare food. Jeleiny feels lucky to have been given the opportunity to learn about nutrition and bond with other parents through Cooking Matters. Back in the fall, Jeleiny requested the class be extended for a longer duration (which wasn’t possible.) We are happy to report that Jeleiny found a way to come back and extend her time with Cooking Matters!