ALANA HERNANDEZ

Staff Writer

 

SAN BENITO — Community outreach worker Letty Gomez set a pot of water to boil and began rhythmically chopping green onions into thinly sliced pieces for the smokey black bean quinoa salad.

While Gomez was cooking up a storm, nutrition information packets and small jars filled with a variety of grains were passed around to each of La Cocina Alegre’s 13 participants.

The City of San Benito, in partnership with the Tu Salud Si Cuenta Program, conducted its first of six bilingual La Cocina Alegre/The Happy Kitchen nutrition and cooking class earlier this week.

The six-week series of classes are aimed toward teaching people how to prepare meals that will help them reduce weight, manage diabetes, boost energy, reduce cholesterol, strengthen immune systems and improve their skin.

The classes are free, open to the public and will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. each Wednesday at the San Benito Community Building through March 13.

Participants receive ingredients after each class so they can recreate the dish with their family.

Additionally, a free recipe book will be given to participants who attend five classes.

According to Gomez, this is the second year the city has hosted the 6-week nutrition and cooking program.

“I feel really happy the program is helping the community because there are a lot of people who have diabetes or don’t know how to prepare healthy meals,” Gomez said. “So, this program will help them have a healthier lifestyle.”

Gaby Masso, a La Cocina Alegre instructor for the Brownsville Wellness Coalition, said the program was adopted from the Sustainable Food Center in Austin.

Masso believes the 6-week classes have been very beneficial for participants.

“I’ve had a lot of people from the classes tell me their cholesterol and sugar levels have gone down,” Masso explained. “So, watching them be interested in learning and trying these new things, is very motivational.”

David Vidal, 69 from Harlingen has been a vegetarian for the past 50 years and says eating healthy has helped him manage his diabetes.

He hopes to learn new recipes during this 6-week program and plans to attend every class.

“The smokey black bean quinoa salad tasted very good, and I plan to make it pretty soon,” Vidal said with a smile. “I would recommend the class to everyone because you learn things that you weren’t aware of and that are going to help you in your daily life to have a healthier body.”

Vidal hopes to see more nutrition and cooking programs in the Valley.

“I would like to see more programs like this in different areas of the Valley because we don’t have very good eating habits here and this type of knowledge will help a lot of people,” Vidal explained.

DESIGNED TO HELP

• Reduce weight

• Reduce cholesterol

• Manage diabetes

• Boost energy

• Strengthen immune system

• Improve skin

IF YOU GO

WHAT — La Cocina Alegre/The Happy Kitchen Nutrition and Cooking Classes

WHEN — Feb. 13, 20, 27 and March 6, 13

TIME — 9:30 to 11 a.m.

WHERE — San Benito Community Building, 210 East Heywood Street

COST — Free

For more information, contact Community Outreach Coordinator Letty Gomez at (956) 357-4564