Combining nutrition awareness and Indigenous traditions
A new cooking class is promoting nutrition in PEI’s Indigenous community by helping participants combine traditional dishes with modern methods
Melody Hyde, dietitian and health promotion coordinator for the Abegweit First Nation, delivered a program called Slow Cooked Dreams at the Abegweit Wellness Centre in Scotchfort using a slow cooker to prepare healthy meals.
“I set it out so everybody could look at the options and pick meals that they wanted to make. Everybody left with five meals they could put in the freezer and pop into their slow cooker so their family could have a hot, balanced nutritious meal at the end of the day,” Hyde said.
Supported by a Wellness Grant from the Government of Prince Edward Island, the program offered four classes in which participants could pre-make a week’s worth of meals featuring beef, pork, chicken or vegetarian options. Hyde said busy families often struggle to prepare meals at the end of the work day. “People are tired and in a hurry so supper can end up being something that is fast and easy and maybe not the most nutritious,” she said. “I find that people tend to think it’s unrealistic to eat healthy. But through this program they see that healthy eating is doable and yummy.”
The classes were delivered with the help of nurse Melissa Jadis and the support of the Abegweit Wellness Centre and food from Epekwitk Gardens and Preserves.
Hyde based her approach on the four points of the Mi’kmaq medicine wheel – focusing each of her four classes on physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health.
“Each week we would make what we call a smart goal in one of these areas – something specific, achievable and measurable. Something like increasing vegetables or getting three colours of food on a plate,” she said. “Sometimes cooking skills can be lost from one generation to another and this is a chance to redevelop them. We want to work with different groups – like elders and children, combining the generations.”
Hyde said her work is helping people in the community prepare healthy meals using less time and money.
“Food insecurity is an issue. A lot of the work here is seasonal and in the off-season money can be tight. Slow Cooked Dreams covers budgeting, shopping and cooking. We’re looking at affordable versions of meals that people can have ready to go. Everybody wants to be able to provide their family with something good to eat.”
Hyde based her classes on Slow Cooked Dreams developed by Cape Breton-based Nadine Bernard who incorporates native traditions and teaching into a program that delivers affordable, accessible recipes.
More than 60 projects have received Wellness Grant funding since the program launched in January 2015.