There is a story behind this story.

In May, I blogged about Operation Frontline: Detroit and its efforts to help southeast Michigan families eat healthy on a budget.

The staff was tickled pink that they got a mention from a regional blogger. They mentioned it on their Facebook page and then their blogger, Dorothy Hernandez, sent me an email: “I wanted to invite you to a class that’s starting up soon, so you can write about it. It will be held Thursdays at Fish and Loaves pantry in Taylor …”

This story pitch became both a blog project and a print project for my newspaper, The Monroe Evening News. The editors and I thought both our print and online audiences would benefit from, and appreciate, what Operation Frontline: Detroit is doing.

Here is my main story. The next two posts are the sidebars to this piece. (See Jambalaya and other recipes and Serving sizes and your budget)

Cooking on a budget with Operation Frontline

By Paula Wethington

When every dollar in the household budget has to stretch as far as possible, families can face a grocery dilemma.

The foods and dishes that family members may prefer to eat, or know how to prepare, might not give the most nutritional value in the long run.

But since 1994, Operation Frontline: Detroit has been trying to get the message out to southeast Michigan families that good food choices can be made on tight budgets.

Seven cooking and nutrition education class series aimed at families on a budget are available from Operation Frontline’s national office. The way this program works is that an agency or non-profit such as a food pantry or Head Start class contacts Operation Frontline offices in Detroit or several other cities across the country to schedule class times and instructors. The classes are offered free to the participants. Grants and donations pay for the supplies and expenses.

For example, Gleaners Food Bank of Detroit is sponsoring an Eating Right cooking series this summer for Downriver area families at Fish and Loaves in Taylor.

“We don’t want people to struggle with ‘How can I eat healthy on a budget?’” said Sarah Stephison, youth and nutrition program coordinator at Gleaners.

Through this program, Operation Frontline hopes to make a long-term impact on families who find themselves going to food pantries to pick up groceries, signing up for food stamps or making arrangements for their children to be on the school lunch program.

“This knowledge can mean the difference between feeding families just for one night, and making sure they never again have to worry about when their next meal will come,” Operation Frontline: Detroit says on its web site.

And by the way, Eating Right cooking class participants do go home with groceries.

“They take the excitement home to their families,” Ms. Stephison said.

Taylor’s first class session on June 24 featured Barley Jambalaya, a recipe that was contributed to Operation Frontline’s national curriculum by Chef Sarah McKay of Detroit. Each family took home a grocery bag with barley, celery stalks, garlic cloves and other ingredients for the dish they helped make and later sampled.

Also during the class, Chef Norris Bouler shared his expertise on cutting boards, knives and kitchen safety topics. And Kelly Moran, an Operation Frontline: Detroit volunteer, gave a presentation on the food pyramid concepts and why a variety of foods is critical to a healthy diet.

During class introductions, the participants said they were looking for easy-do, inexpensive, but still healthy foods.

For example, David and Debbi Buettner of Brownstown Township have six children at home, ranging in age from 3 to 17. Because of financial circumstances that they ran into, they’ve become experts in techniques such as stockpiling favorite groceries when there is a sale at their local Kroger store.

Mrs. Buettner said she uses cupcake tins to count out serving sizes. Their menu planning includes what day of the week the children are allowed to have sugared cereal for breakfast.

So the Eating Right class definitely was of interest. “I was hoping to find different recipes to do on a budget,” Mrs. Buettner said.

When she realized the Operation Frontline recipes were designed for a $2 a serving budget, she thought a minute and then said she probably could get her actual cost lower because of all the grocery-shopping tricks she already knows.

“We’ve learned to stretch a penny,” Mr. Beuttner said.

On the web

Operation Frontline: Detroit

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