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Low-income cooking

Classes help people with limited budgets

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River (Jan 20/03) - There's nothing fancy about Laura Rose's cooking classes. Unlike TV cooking shows, there's no movie added for entertainment, no live studio audience and no wise-cracking co-host.

NNSL Photo

Laura Rose, the president of the Hay River Soup Kitchen, offers budget-wise cooking classes for people on income support or with low-paying jobs. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

But Rose offers something not seen on TV -- a three-month course on how people with low incomes can eat nutritiously on their limited budgets.

"It's basically trying to get the people to understand how to live and eat to the best of their budgets," she explains.

However, Rose says, there is no way someone on income support or with a low-paying job can follow the Canada Food Guide.

She notes that a single person on income support only gets about $225 a month, excluding money for power and rent. "It's not much, so you really have to be creative."

Rose says the diet of many poor people is bad, since it is heavy on starches and "filler food" -- food that simply makes a person feel full, such as bread. That sort of diet also has plenty of Kraft Dinner and beans.

"It will keep you alive, but you start missing things," she says, noting such diets do not include many vegetables, and not much fruit or meat.

Rose's classes are presented at the Hay River Soup Kitchen, where she is president. She says she has to start right from the bottom when teaching some people.

The classes show how to prepare such things as broccoli quiche, different kinds of casseroles, muffins, stews and dumplings, and chicken cacciatore, she says. "There's a wide variety of stuff."

Her efforts have not gone unappreciated. Following one class, a student wrote in a letter: "Mrs. Rose has taught me many basics of cooking that I knew nothing about." The single parent added he learned to cook many healthy, inexpensive and great-tasting dinners, lunches and snacks.

Rose collects such letters to prepare applications for continued funding from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. The idea for the classes originated with the Family Support Centre, which approached Rose about delivering the classes beginning in the fall of 2001.

Rose encourages everyone on income support or earning a low income to come to the classes if they need to stretch their money. Her classes can accommodate up to four people at a time.

"It's free," she points out.

Plus, at the end of each class, students get to take home whatever meal they have prepared.