PITTSFIELD -- Eating healthy isn't always easy. But eating healthy on a budget with hungry children waiting at home -- that's a real challenge.
That's why a program led by Berkshire North Women Infant and Children, or WIC, is trying to teach young families at risk of hunger how to prepare healthy and affordable meals, and showing them the food can actually taste good.
The program, Cooking Matters, is provided through a grant from Share Our Strength, and Berkshire North WIC is partnering with Berkshire County Head Start to offer the six-week session.
The courses are led by local volunteers with culinary and nutritional expertise. Participants learn food preparation, budgeting and shopping techniques intended to improve the quality of the food served at the home.
"You would be amazed at the number of people who come in and say, ‘I don't know how to cook,' " said Susan Antil, director of Berkshire North WIC. "These are people with families, so when that happens their families are doomed to eating canned ravioli, boxed macaroni and cheese and that kind of stuff."
Antil said people on a tight budget can't afford to take risks on healthy options their kids might not like, so the food they prepare in the program and the groceries they get to take home help to give a feel for what their families will enjoy. And so far, Antil said, the families have been pleasantly surprised by their willingness to embrace food made
One of the participants, a 31-year old mother of two from Williamstown who asked not to have her name published, said she signed up because it spoke directly to a problem her family was facing.
"In this day and age, everything is so expensive," she said. "Trying go find healthy meals on a budget is severely hard."
The mother said she grew up eating healthy, but developed poor eating habits in college and in subsequent years. She said she's been trying to get back to healthy eating, and this class is pushing her further in that direction.
Antil called the program a tremendous success that goes beyond just the people in the class. She hopes to bring it back if a future grant is awarded.
"When you work with moms that way, you're multiplying your efforts," said Antil, "because here are kids that are going to grow up with healthy eating habits, and they're going to spread it to their children."