INFOBOX: IF YOU GO

WHAT — La Cocina Alegre/The Happy Kitchen classes

WHEN — June 3, June 10, June 17, June 24 and July 1 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

WHERE — Rio Grande State Center, 1401 South Rangerville Road, Harlingen

COST — Free

PHONE — (956) 755-0640

INFOBOX: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Classes emphasize the selection and preparation of “fresh foods that are nutritious, affordable and delicious.”

Classes meet once a week for 6-weeks.

Each class is an hour and a half long.

Attendees receive recipes and ingredients to make recipes each class.

INFOBOX: What is the Salud Y Vida program?

Salud y Vida is a free program, with a mission to help RGV residents with uncontrolled diabetes achieve optimal health.

The program is focused on people who are uninsured, have Medicaid or Medicare.

It’s comprised of three phases, which include the transition care phase, the chronic care management phase and the follow-up monitoring phase.

By ALANA HERNANDEZ

Staff Writer

HARLINGEN — After slicing handfuls of green chilies, tomatoes, carrots and onions into finely chopped pieces, wellness facilitator Jessica Davila began to whisk the ingredients in a small bowl filled with olive oil.

Then, she mixed the ingredients into a pile of steaming brown rice while continuing to discuss each step with her students.

After sprinkling toasted pumpkin seeds on top of the freshly-made Mexican Rice Salad, her students knew the recipe was complete and began commenting on how excited they were to try it themselves.

Facilitators from the Brownsville Wellness Coalition conducted their first of six The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre cooking and nutrition classes yesterday, in Harlingen for the Salud y Vida RGV program.

Seven people attended the program’s first nutrition and cooking class.

The six-week series of classes aim to help Cameron and Hidalgo County residents who are at risk of diabetes or already have it better control their health.

Through the class, attendees learn how to cook a new recipe each week, understand how to analyze nutritional facts and learn about different ingredients.

The remaining five-classes will be held May 20, June 3, June 10, June 17, June 24 and July 1 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Rio Grande State Center.

It is not mandatory to attend each one.

A different recipe is taught in each class.

A recipe and a bag filled with ingredients are given to attendees after each class.

Students who attend five of The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre classes receive a large recipe book.

Due to space, the maximum number for the class is 25.

Instructor’s experience

According to Davila, the Brownsville Wellness Coalition has facilitated 31 The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre classes so far this year in the Valley.

Davila said her favorite aspects about teaching are seeing the progress each attendee makes each week and the relationships that form.

“Some attendees ask if they can have my number in case they need to call me about recipe questions,” she explained. “So, I think the connections we make with them don’t just last six weeks and that’s the best park of it because it’s life changing for them.”

Looking back, one of Davila’s most impactful sessions was when a family attended the cooking and nutrition classes together.

“It’s not easy for a participant to come, learn and then go home and try to implement it,” she explained. “We knew everyone was going to be on the same page so that really made an impact to me because the whole family was on board with it.”

Davila said she has a passion for teaching people that their health matters.

“When you help someone eat and chose better for their life, you’re helping them live better physically and mentally,” she said. “So, take care of yourself. If it’s not for you, do it for the people who love you because they want you here.”

Attendee’s experience

Juan Salazar, from Santa Rosa, has attended four The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre classes so far.

After being diagnosed with diabetes, he said he felt motivated to learn how to live healthier.

“I think the classes have made a very powerful impact because I’ve been eating more fruits and vegetables, I cut down on sugar and stopped drinking cokes,” he explained. “So, I feel like this is keeping me healthy.”

In addition to health benefits, Salazar said the recipes are simple to make, tasty and don’t require people to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Patty Flores and her sister took a trip from their hometown in Rio Hondo, to attend the class yesterday.

Flores said her goals are to lower her weight and reduce her diabetes.

“Anyone who’s not taking the class should try it,” she said. “It’s amazing because you learn a lot, the food looks beautiful, tastes good and it’s healthy.”

Salazar and Flores said they plan to attend the remaining five cooking and nutrition classes.

MORE INFO

What is the Salud Y Vida program?

• Salud y Vida is a free program that’s mission is to help RGV residents with uncontrolled diabetes achieve optimal health.

• The program is focused on people who are uninsured, have Medicaid or Medicare.

• It’s comprised of three phases, which include the transition care phase, the chronic care management phase and the follow-up monitoring phase.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

• Classes emphasize the selection and preparation of “fresh foods that are nutritious, affordable and delicious.”

• Classes meet once a week for 6-weeks.

• Each class is an hour and a half long.

• Attendees receive recipes and ingredients to make recipes each class.

IF YOU GO

WHAT — La Cocina Alegre/The Happy Kitchen classes

WHEN — May 20, June 3, June 10, June 17, June 24 and July 1 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

WHERE — Rio Grande State Center, 1401 South Rangerville Road, Harlingen

COST — Free

PHONE — (956) 755-0640