Lareese lives with her two school-aged kids in a small Maryland town. The family is busy; between school, volunteering, choir practice and other commitments they have less than 30 minutes to cook dinner on most nights.
She’s trained as a dental assistant, but on-and-off employment in her small town has sometimes made it tough to make ends meet. SNAP and WIC benefits help her put food on the table during the times she’s unable to find work.
Lareese took a Cooking Matters course at her local community center. Since graduating, there’s a difference in how she shops and cooks. The family now reads food labels. In the grocery store, her daughter picks up a drink they used to buy, an 8 oz. bottle of mango soda. “This little thing is three gulps and you’ve had 25 grams of sugar!” Lareese exclaims.
Lareese sometimes used to run short on groceries before her SNAP and WIC benefits renewed. She learned how to make her food assistance dollars last longer in Cooking Matters. Her SNAP benefits last longer than they did before the course – up to a week and a half longer sometimes. Before, a $6 WIC fruit and vegetable check would cover two items. Now, Lareese is able to buy two packages of frozen fruit, two cans of fruit and a pack of applesauce with that same $6.
Cooking Matters was “a unity thing” for Lareese, where everyone in the course shared ideas and what they are going through in their own households.
One night’s dinner is tuna fish – one of the kids’ favorites. For herself, Lareese serves the tuna fish in a cucumber “boat,” a recipe she learned in Cooking Matters. The kids get a more traditional tuna fish sandwich, on whole wheat bread served with apple slices.
Cooking Matters opened the Cathey family’s eyes to a wider variety of healthy foods and has led to changes in their eating habits. “Before this class, I thought of eating healthy as bland and nasty. You can eat healthy and still have tasteful food,” she says.