Cooking up change

Family Services offers food skills for men

Generally speaking, Family Services’ community kitchen program participants are seniors, parents of young children, and for the most part, female.

Thanks to a partnership between Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church, The Canadian Diabetes Association, Family Services and the United Way, there’s now a Food Skills for Families Program specifically for men.

“We know that there are many men living on their own for a variety of reasons,” says Pat Steiner, coordinator, Community Education and Development Services. “We see them at the food bank and we’ve met single senior men through our Caring Neighbours at Christmas program.”

The Food Skills for Families is a six week program; five sessions are spent in the kitchen and one session involves a tour of a grocery store with a certified nutritionist.

“Being a single man recovering from a recent loss, reaching retirement and a person also dealing with diabetes, I thought this would be a perfect time for me to reignite the zeal I once had in the kitchen,” says Steve, one of the participants.

“I have benefited royally from this program not only from the information and knowledge I have acquired but the friends I have made along the way.”

Currently, there are ten men registered in the program from different backgrounds and age groups. Most men are over 50. Some are single and living on their own and some are coupled. Another man is a newcomer to Canada and the father of three young children.

“One man has retired but his wife still works full time. She was getting irritated coming home from work and having to make supper,” says Pat. “Now he proudly makes supper for both of them.”

The group is held at Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church in New Westminster. At each session, they prepare five recipes that are healthy, low-cost and suited for people living with diabetes.

They learn cooking skills, try new foods and learn about nutrition. Usually, participants go home with enough leftovers for a meal or two.

They not only prepare the food, they sit down together to enjoy the meal, share interesting conversation and to make new bonds of friendship.

“It’s a great group, full of humour, kindness and compassion,” says Pat. “The camaraderie and social connection is palpable.”