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Pittillo leading highly affective free cooking classes

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When Portage Health focuses on “improving the health of our community,” it may seem like that focus is mostly about healthcare. However, making a difference in someone’s life comes in many different ways.

Cooking Matters 2For instance, this summer/fall, Portage Health is heavily involved in a cooking program called “Cooking Matters.” This might not be the mostly publicly known about course, but for participants, it will make a huge difference in their diet.

“A lot of these things I thought I knew, but I’ve learned so much,” participant Beverly Jukkala of L’Anse said. “This is so in depth, it’s really benefited me.”

Instead of reaching for a frozen TV dinner, Jukkala is now finding affordable foods to cook at home. The course focuses on education of healthy eating, and hands-on cooking experience meant to help adults in our community gain the skills they need to cook at home.

“We teach a wide variety of cooking skills, and we really dive into it,” said Mark Pittillo, director of nutrition services at Portage Health. “This isn’t a snippet of healthy eating, this is a way to make real change in these people’s daily life.”

The idea revolves around the fact that people are too disconnected and inexperienced to cook at home like they did years ago.

“Everyone knows fresh fruits and veggies are good for you, but not everyone knows how to turn those into delicious food they’ll eat at home on a regular basis,” added Jennifer Szubielak, director of senior meals, which hosts the class at their location on Water Street in Hancock. “This hands-on experience means a lot.”

Programs like this statewide help thousands each year, and the statistics are incredible. Participants eat 67 percent more vegetables, 47 percent more lean meats and 68 percent more whole grains. This is just the tip of the iceberg of impressive stats about the programs.

Locally this is the second year of the six-session class. Classes will continue through September, with Portage Health and the Michigan State University Extension offices in Hancock and Ontonagon partnering to offer the classes.

Learn more about the effectiveness of the class by reading this report, which was put together by Gleaners Community Food Bank.

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