Free Chicago cooking class aims to change life expectancy for Black people


Chronic heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are among the main reasons Black individuals have a shorter lifespan than their white counterparts, especially in Chicago. A free cooking class is now trying to close this disparity.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Good Food is Good Medicine is one of three initiatives from The Good Food Catalyst and was introduced last year. According to its website, GFGM is an innovative program that combines community listening, collaborative education, cooking, and coaching to reduce healthcare costs in Chicago’s underprivileged communities while lowering high rates of diet-related diseases.

In addition to free cooking workshops currently held in an incubator and test kitchen in Garfield Park, the program will offer free exercise programs, mindfulness/stress seminars, and open discussions with doctors and nutritionists.

A free cooking class has launched in Chicago aimed at closing the wide life expectancy gap between minorities and their white counterparts. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

D., co-founder of Good Food is Good Medicine and gastroenterologist at UChicago Medicine. Ed McDonald told The Tribune that cooking classes are deliberately offered in areas most affected by food deserts and red lines.

“These are areas where healthy food choices are being overwhelmed or flooded by unhealthy options,” McDonald said. “So the same areas we call food deserts are technically food swamps with an abundance of food, just unhealthy food. And these are also African-American-dominated neighborhoods.”

Heart disease, which is more common in Black, Latino, and South Asian communities, replaced coronavirus as the main cause of death in Chicago in 2020. While there are systemic problems such as housing discrimination, limited access to health care and a lack of fresh food options. Large parts of the city have also contributed, with several groups in Chicago looking to spark change using free cooking classes that creatively combine food education with healthy eating tips.

“If we start throwing fresh vegetables into these food-apartheid areas, not everything will change,” said Jeannine Wise, GFGM’s co-creator and head chef, according to The Tribune. “What [studies] found teaching was [people] Cooking also helped. Because if you don’t know what to do with fresh vegetables because you’ve never eaten them before, then it’s no use eating fresh vegetables for nothing.”

To maintain their vegan status, five students are enrolled in the workshop where they practice roasting and baking before enjoying a lunch of baked salmon, roasted chicken wings and vegetables with in-house Buffalo sauce or pesto made with nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan. .

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“I learned to be creative and make things for myself at home (that is) a little bit healthier but still taste good,” said participant Janet Yarboi.

“Spice is everything to me and I really can’t sacrifice spice,” Yarboi told The Tribune that she enjoys getting to know other people in the community and learning about healthy cooking methods.

With pronouns, Wise noted that the current health issues of the last GFGM meal were diabetes, sodium, and cardiovascular disease.

“Some of our favorite foods are fried. Eating fried food is very convenient because food is about pleasure, enjoyment and community, right?” they said, the Tribune claimed. “However, if you eat fried foods as a mold, you are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.”

McDonald discussed a wide variety of issues as they ate, including the effects of genetically modified foods, the dangers of cooking red meat at high temperatures, and whether the nutritional problems that impact gut health could be similarly passed on to future generations. .

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Both Johnson and Wise agree that they don’t recommend that people remove certain foods from their diets, and prefer not to offer them substitution suggestions.

“Yes, we will teach you how to cook healthy, but we will never tell you that you are doing something wrong. We will never buy food from you. We’re just going to add it,” Wise said, according to The Tribune. “We eat for a variety of reasons, and many are deeply psychological and emotional.”

McDonald plans to use the new funding to examine the success of Good Food is Good Medicine by examining whether participants’ diets have changed after classes are over. Meanwhile, Wise is trying to expand its curriculum to additional Chicago neighborhoods and is also developing a Spanish language course, collaborating with pre-existing community organizations whenever possible.

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