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Cooking Together with Traditional Foods - A Healthy Together Now Feature

November 2021

Including culture and cooking your own meals are both important aspects of healthy eating. It can make eating more enjoyable, help to foster connections, and keep tradition alive. Charlena Thies, the coordinator of ‘In a Good Way’ at the Brandon Friendship Centre, recognizes the importance of including culture as a part of healthy eating, so she applied for funding through Healthy Together Now to include this in her program.

‘In a Good Way’ is a family resource program that offers families services, including prenatal classes, postnatal classes, and ‘Seedlings,’ a pre-school preparation program. During the prenatal classes, expecting parents are taught several different skills, including cooking. Typically, a healthy recipe is chosen to make together, and parents learn how to follow recipes as well as other cooking skills. With the help of Healthy Together Now, the prenatal classes were expanded to feature traditional Indigenous foods during the cooking lessons. As Charlena explained, the program’s goal was “finding new ways to bring our traditional foods into a healthy lifestyle.”

The program ran for eight sessions throughout this past year. Due to gathering size limitations, classes were restricted to four participants. Although the group sizes were small, participants still received the benefit of in-person sessions. They could get in the kitchen and see the techniques used up close, develop their cooking skills, and learn recipes step-by-step together. Charlena believes that a big part of learning is through each other, saying the group aspect “made for good conversation… everyone does something a little differently.” It also contributed to forming a sense of community within the group. Traditional Indigenous recipes taught included chicken and wild rice soup, fish, and several recipes using bison meat. As the public health restrictions permitted, a few guest speakers were able to come in to teach the classes and share their recipes and perspectives.

For many of the participants, this was their first encounter with some of these traditional foods. Charlena recounted that one of the mothers was skeptical of bison meat but ended up being pleasantly surprised when she tasted the completed meal: “She was really quite surprised at the taste.” Other participants learned for the first time how to cook meals they had eaten and enjoyed before, such as how to fry a fish. The participants gained confidence in their cooking abilities throughout the program. Overall, the recipes went over well, with many expressing their excitement to try them on their own. Given this chance to experiment with new foods, Charlena believes that in the future, “they’ll feel more inclined to try something new.” The new parents can now bring this traditional cooking into their homes, achieving the goal of including culture within healthy meals. 

Interested in receiving funding for a project focused on healthy eating, physical activity, mental well-being or tobacco prevention and reduction in your community? Visit Prairie Mountain Health’s ‘Healthy Together Now’ page for more information on eligibility and how to apply.