Twelve years ago, Margarita moved to Denver, Colorado from Zacateca, Mexico. Her husband had moved one year prior to begin saving money for their family’s new life. Margarita made the 1,400-mile journey with just her young daughter.
Margarita now has four children, spanning from 4 to 14-years old. She finds it difficult to portion meals and stretch her food dollars to feed six people. The family receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to help.
When she learned that her son’s preschool was offering a Cooking Matters six-week course she decided to sign up. “I wanted to learn new things, like how to eat healthier.”
When she was a child, Margarita did not help in the kitchen; her mother did all the cooking for her family. At age 15 Margarita went to work in another city, and suddenly she had to cook. There was a lot of trial and error.
“It was hard,” she recalls. “I would make something and think maybe it doesn’t look good or isn’t good, but I’m hungry so I have to eat it.”
This has been Margarita’s approach to cooking ever since: it’s hard and often doesn’t work. Margarita spent years feeling uncomfortable in the kitchen. She only had a few trusted recipes.
Following new recipes was a challenge for Margarita, but she knew she could be cooking healthier for her family. And as many mothers have experienced, she has a difficult crowd to please. Her family was not open to trying new things, including her husband who preferred her few, familiar recipes from Mexico.
In her Cooking Matters class, Margarita learned how to portion, how to measure items for recipes, and how to incorporate healthy changes her family would be willing to try.
“I now read labels. I didn’t do this before; it’s a big thing. I really know what we are eating now. And looking at what we used to eat… wow.”
Since the course ended, Margarita has been reading the instructional book to keep practicing what she learned. She’s made changes her family doesn’t even notice, such as switching from refined grains to whole grains.
“Last week, I made hamburgers, so I used whole wheat buns, and they just ate it, so I was like ‘okay, that happened. It worked!’”
Margarita has noticed her family has become open to trying new things. They recognize her effort and they are always willing to try everything – and usually end up liking it! Her husband is helping the family eat healthier too.
“That’s not real tomato,” he said to Margarita after reading the ingredients in their ketchup. “We’re not going to eat that anymore.”
Her eldest daughter often helps her cook. This is their time to catch up -- just the two of them. Margarita enjoys watching her daughter become more comfortable cooking healthy meals. The two that made that first journey to the U.S. together are now leading their family’s journey to a healthier life.
After Cooking Matters, families like Margarita’s stretch their SNAP dollars further and make healthier choices.