Nutrition classes for young mothers

Caitlin Husted, Staff Writer

Young mothers face many obvious struggles, but one that seems to get overlooked is nutrition. It is the young mother’s job to make sure she is putting the right nutrients into her children’s bodies along with her own. Millikin’s very own Chef Brian and Dr. Tina Cloney have spent the last six weeks helping young mothers get a grasp on the importance of nutrition and how to reinforce it in their own lives in the nutrition class Cooking Matters.

This nutrition class was put on through Baby TALK (Teaching Activities for Learning and Knowledge) Early Head Start. According to the Baby Talk website, this program helps young mothers so they can, “continue their education and develop skills and confidence to better parent their infant.”

This six week program was offered because Baby TALK received the Early Head Start grant from Cooking Matters. This grant allowed the teachers to not only show the students how to cook the meal, but made sure each one walked away with the ingredients used so they could replicate the meal at home on their own.

Each class was split into two segments: cooking and nutrition. According to 16 year old participant Jenesi Moore, they would begin the class learning how to cook the meal, then, as the food was cooking, the participants would learn about the nutrition side behind the meal.

“We have learned about nutrition, calorie count, the MyPlate, the importance of food storage and what to do in a kitchen emergency,” Moore said.

Dr. Tina Cooper, Millikin volunteer dietician for this program, has defined the goal of the class as to teach the ladies about how to cook healthy meals, choose healthy food, read food labels and make the most out of their resources.

This past week, the young mothers all went to County Market on E. Pershing and walked around the grocery store with the instructors. As a group, they looked at the nutrition labels of certain foods and figured out which type was healthier. All of the young ladies gathered around and listened intently to what was being said. They had a desire to learn about how to improve their babies lives along with their own.

“It has been the most rewarding program watching these young ladies learn and grow,” Chef Brain said.

Being the chef of the program, Chef Brian has been able to work closely with all of the young ladies and has thoroughly enjoyed his time getting to know them better. He feels that as long as the mothers are walking away knowing something that they didn’t before, then he is doing his job.

Kaitlyn Callahan, a senior health fitness and recreation major, was also given the opportunity to work with the young mothers.

“[I’ve enjoyed} interacting with the girls, watching them really get to know the information and learning when to apply it,” Callahan said.

The volunteers in the program aren’t the only ones enjoying their time. 21-year-old participant, Tiffany Olbrias, has enjoyed learning how to make new and interesting meals for her children while also learning how to make the meals healthier.

“I’m walking away with [the knowledge of] healthier options and knowing how to spend my money [wisely],” Olbrias said.

This program was a great opportunity for young mothers to learn a little more about nutrition and how they can better take care of their children. Although the class is over, the techniques and information they learn will help them throughout the rest of their lives.