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Free Millvale workshops focus on preparing nutritious, affordable meals

| Monday, March 13, 2017, 5:33 p.m.

North Hills Community Outreach and Christ Lutheran Church in Millvale are partnering to provide workshops focusing on how to access nutritious food and prepare healthy, cost-effective meals.

The first monthly “Pantry 2 Table, a Let's Cook! Workshop,” will occur from 10:30 a.m. to noon, March 18 at the church.

“Participants will learn basic food prep skills. The goal is to use the available equipment, so it's not going to be anything fancy that you would have to go out and buy,” said Maria Christina, NHCO Millvale outreach manager.

During the first class, participants will learn how to chop ingredients for salmon patties and trim broccoli for a macaroni and cheese dish. Guests will discuss the nutrition benefits of different preparation methods and substitutions used in the recipes, view cooking demonstrations and taste portions of the cuisine.

The April class will probably concentrate on soup, herbs and spices and freezing and storing food, Christina said. Other future topics include: roasting vegetables, stir-frying, oven-frying, microwaving, fermenting, making smoothies, storing food and reading labels.

University of Pittsburgh assistant professor Judith Dodd, a registered dietitian-nutritionist, will oversee her graduate students in leading many classes; chefs may lead others.

Guests may bring in their own recipes for tips on decreasing the sodium or sugar content.

Christina and the Rev. Paul Lubold, Christ Lutheran Church pastor, said they are offering the workshops in Millvale due to its “food desert” status.

“A food desert is used to describe a community where the residents have limited access to particularly fresh produce, you know, foods in general,” Christina said. “Millvale itself does not have a grocery store. The closest grocer is in Shaler, and it is not on a bus line.”

Christina noted that the Gardens of Millvale volunteer-led garden is one way residents have rallied to make produce accessible to the community. During the warmer months, the Let's Cook! workshops will utilize ingredients grown in the NHCO's Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden in Bellevue.

NHCO acquired the Christ Lutheran Church food pantry in 2014. Last year, 180 families received food services through NHCO's Millvale office, with 143 using the pantry, she said.

“The partnership has been terrific,” Lubold said. “It just broadens our ability to serve.”

A $5,000 grant from The Sprout Fund's 100 Days of US initiative is supporting the workshops. The initiative encourages people to act locally to foster positive change in national issues during the first 100 days of the new presidential administration.

Lubold said he and Christina discussed finding another purpose for his church's kitchen, which the Northern Area Multi-Services Center had used as a senior center until mid-2015. After attending a 100 Days of US meeting, Christina recalled her conversation with Lubold and developed the workshop idea.

Workshop attendance is open to anyone, regardless of residency or income. Organizers ask that attendees supervise their children during the classes.

Registration at 412-408-3830, ext. 3225 is requested but not required.

Christina said her goals for the workshops are “pretty simple: for families to learn more about creating nutritious, affordable meals and to have fun doing it.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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