The Women, Infants, and Children program in Abilene, or WIC, has recently expanded access to one of its activities: cooking classes.
WIC has been helping families in Taylor County since 1977, and currently serves about 3,300 clients monthly. The program added cooking classes in 2001, after receiving a grant aimed at reducing obesity in the community. Organizers hoped that teaching WIC recipients how to cook meals for themselves would lead to healthier choices-and less reliance on pre-packaged meals.
WIC normally specializes in providing women, infants and children with access to food and nutritional supplements, but on the first Thursday of each month, the organization goes a step further. It opens its doors to participants for a free cooking class. Instructors show the class how to prepare the foods that they may have never tried before.
WIC wanted to be able to contribute more to the community that they help, and as WIC Director Lois Woods explains one of the best ways to help their participants was to teach them the cooking skills to prepare their own meals. “A lot of our participants were interested in learning how to cook, they were interested in how to properly set the table or how to dice or how to julienne and to get more hands on tangible experience.”
Each class focuses on one type of ingredient, such as a dairy item or a vegetable, and they prepare enough food for each participant to take some home.
Daisy, who only wanted to give her first name, said she’d been to the class twice, “The first time we did something with protein, and this time around we tried different recipes with dairy.” Daisy says one of her favorite things about the cooking classes are the combinations of food, as she did not expect certain foods to match with others, “The broccoli, I didn’t think that using broccoli and yogurt and stuff together would have tasted good.”
The cooking classes have come a long way from their inception in 2001, when they were taught in community recreation centers. Over time, the program was able to move the classes into its own facility. They do still continue to collaborate with other community partners, and Lois Woods says she believes that makes Abilene Taylor County WIC stand out. “Other cooking programs just really focus on their program, but the Abilene Taylor County WIC program has reached out and partnered with a lot of community partners and we invite them to come to our cooking classes as well as let them have our facilities to engage their own cooking classes.”
After opening the cooking classes to the public this past January, they’ve grown to around ten regular students. The cooking classes are offered on the first Thursday of each month at 10:15 a.m., and 2:15 p.m. While the classes are free, WIC asks those interested to RSVP by calling the number the Abilene WIC website, so organizers can have adequate supplies and materials.