Mary Auld, Valley Journal
The scene was familiar: families talked while stirring sauces and chopping vegetables, but instead of being in their respective homes, the cooks were in a middle-school classroom learning to cook healthy meals.
The event was part of a three-class series sponsored by the Polson School District Wellness Committee to introduce families to accessible, healthy food. Polson’s FoodCorps service member Elayna Shapiro is a member of the committee and facilitated the cooking classes. Nutrition is just one of many areas where the committee works to improve health.
“We’re trying to figure out where in the system we need to advocate for different changes to address health issues affecting community on large scale,” Shapiro said.
The Wellness Committee is a group of health professionals, school staff and community members working to prepare students for a lifetime of health. The state mandates that the district has a wellness policy and a wellness committee, but the Polson committee is going beyond the requirements. The committee includes representatives from the local hospitals, parents and each school in the district.
The committee is focused on preventing life-long health problems starting with the youngest members of the community. “If you start that at kindergarten and have wellness be an integral part of our education system then we’ll end up with healthier people,” Committee Chair Roxanne Hovenkotter said. Hovenkotter is the school librarian at Linderman Elementary School and has a Masters in Public Health.
The idea for family cooking classes arose from a survey last year where staff requested cooking classes as a way to promote healthy, affordable eating.