Fostering Community with Healthy Food


The weather outside was frightful, but cooking together was so delightful at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church for the premier class in our new Five Times a Feast program, held January 28.

Five Times a Feast teaches concepts of daily nutrition and enables participants to practice cooking and large-batch preparation. Empowered with these skills and knowledge, participants are able to address barriers to healthy home-cooking: food costs, time for preparation, comfort in the kitchen, and an understanding of nutrition. A significant number of Baltimore City residents experience these barriers profoundly.

Healthy food access is low in many communities where fast food, corner stores, and carry-out options abound.  Without a personal vehicle, a trip to the grocery store becomes a prohibitive step in making home-cooked meals. Shift-working and holding multiple jobs can place additional time constraints on people. Kitchens that lack a full set of working tools and appliances further complicate the process. Though food blogging is in vogue, without internet access or a cookbook on hand, it’s hard to know what steps to take in the kitchen, especially given the disappearance of home economics classes in school.

With Five Times a Feast, the Institute is making healthy home-cooking one step closer to reality for the participants from Amazing Grace Lutheran Church. Led by our community programs coordinator, Alica Diehl, each of the eight classes in the series introduces new concepts and tips for boosting nutrition, managing time, and saving money. She also emphasizes these key principles in every session:

Eat real food rather than processed foods, which are often full of sugar, salt and unhealthy chemicals. 

Prep in bulk to save time. It's easier and faster to chop and cook a week's worth of vegetables all at once.

Be flexible. For example, if a recipe calls for asparagus, it's find to substitute green beans if that's what you have on hand.  


The first class focused on eating the rainbow of fruits & vegetables, planning ahead, and shopping the perimeters of the grocery store, where more whole foods and fewer processed foods are located. After the group discussed these concetps, they warmed-up with a game of ‘Would You Rather?’ that got people sharing food-related ideas. They considered: “Would you rather give up fast food or television for the rest of your life?” and, “Would you rather be an amazing singer or an amazing chef?"

Then participants rolled up their sleeves to put their new knowledge into practice, along with a lot of knife skills practice. They sliced, diced, minced, and julienned their way to a Rainbow Veggies and Brown Rice Stir-Fry and made some Gingery Turkey Meatballs (see recipe at the right) for a protein boost. Each serving provides over one cup of vegetables. That's one-half to one-third a person’s daily needs, depending on their age and sex. 

Each participant made six servings—one to enjoy that evening and five additional to take home for the week ahead. This method of bulk cooking is a great way to save time in the long run, and save yourself from making a run to the nearest fast food restaurant or vending machine. When tasty, home-cooked meals are already prepared, it’s easier to make a healthy choice!

How do you make healthy eating easier for yourself or your family?

Photo credit: Meryam Bouadjemi