Course teaches nutrition on a budget

The Extension Service course focuses on healthy eating for low-income families.


Mark Vancleave


by Carly Schramm

On Wednesday, 10 women walked through a Cub Foods in south Minneapolis and learned about something theyâÄôd already done hundreds of times: shopping for groceries. Operation Frontline Minnesota is a six-week, hands-on nutritional course that aims to help low-income families learn how to eat healthy while on a tight budget. The program, which operates statewide, is formed by partnerships with nutritional educators. âÄúWe go to where the need is in the state,âÄù University of Minnesota Extension Service spokeswoman Julie Christensen said. The first Operation Frontline program through the Extension Service was offered last November. They will continue to offer about 20 more courses this year, Operation Frontline Coordinator CeAnn Klug, said. The Extension Service received $16 million in federal and county funding for nutritional education programs like Operation Frontline. The Extension Service partners with organizations such as Parents In Community Action Inc.âÄôs Head Start to bring Operation Frontline to low-income families. They also partnered with Share Our Strength, a national organization that aims to end childhood hunger. The two-hour sessions through the Share Our Strength partnership are taught every Wednesday by Chris Deibele, an Extension nutrition education assistant, and Seth Bixby Daugherty, a former chef at Cosmos Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. Daugherty demonstrates how to prepare a meal to the class and then breaks them into groups to make that same dish, Klug said. Then the nutrition education assistant, Deibele, teaches the nutritional aspect of the class. During the in-store portion, Deibele and Daugherty teach the participants to check food labels and look for whole-grain foods while avoiding those with high-fructose corn syrup. Also, they are taught to pay close attention to the price per pound and encouraged to have a dinner plan before they go into the store. âÄúThe main goal is to make them more self-sufficient and confident that they can do this for themselves and their family,âÄù Deibele said. âÄúAlso, to give them the confidence that they can shop for foods other than packaged ones.âÄù âÄú[WeâÄôre] teaching them to shop wisely,âÄù Daugherty said. At the end of the in-store class, participants are given 30 minutes to buy food for a meal that could serve a family of four for $10 or less. They are then allowed to take those groceries home with them. Participation in the Operation Frontline program is free. The participants in this course were recruited from PICA Head Start, which serves about 900 families and offers numerous programs to help children and their families in Hennepin County. Treka Hannah, a mother and head teacher at PICA Head Start, participated in the program because âÄúthey teach you very specifically what to buy.âÄù âÄúSince youâÄôre actually taking time to make the food, you really think about what youâÄôre preparing for your family,âÄù she said. The classes typically have 12 to 15 participants and are made up of either adults or caregivers and children. âÄúWeâÄôve had really good results for recruiting,âÄù Klug said. âÄúThereâÄôs been no problem finding participation.âÄù