Five Times a Feast, the Institute for Integrative Health’s community-based cooking program, expanded in 2017 by introducing a Cooking Coach training course that enables Five Times a Feast participants to become leaders of the six-class series in their communities. Since starting the Cooking Coach training, the program has been able to add eight more host sites.
“The more community members who are qualified to lead Five Times a Feast, the more Baltimore residents we can empower to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their families,” said Brandin Bowden, director of community programs at the Institute for Integrative Health. “This is important because good eating habits can help prevent and reverse chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”
The idea for the training arose when Five Times a Feast participants at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, the program’s very first host site, expressed interest in leading the program for more members of their neighborhood. In response, the Institute developed a course that equips coaches-to-be with skills and tools to help others be successful in the kitchen. The Institute also provides seed funding for ingredients and cooking equipment, and pairs coaches-in-training with mentors who support them throughout the process.
The enthusiasm of community members like Ardella “Diane” McCauley, one of the first Cooking Coaches, helped lay the foundation for the training’s success. “Once I saw the kids really wanting to do it and they were eating and coming back for more, I felt a whole lot better,” said McCauley, who ran her first Five Times a Feast session at Fulton Baptist Church in West Baltimore.
Typically held at Baltimore schools, churches, and other community sites, the hands-on program often attracts multiple generations. Together, they practice cooking skills and learn about nutrition, cooking on a budget, and kitchen safety. At the end of each session, they share a meal, and each household takes home five additional servings.
Through bold ideas like Five Times a Feast and its Cooking Coach training, the Institute for Integrative Health is building healthy communities with the support of its partners, donors, and volunteers.