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Dads Can Cook

April 28th, 2012 - By Lari Robling

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No, it’s not a reality TV show! At a South Philly Early Headstart program, fathers come together to learn nutritious ways in the kitchen — for themselves and their children.



It’s just about dusk in South Philly and the Maternity Care Coalition’s Early Headstart program has quieted down—kids have headed home; teachers ready their classes for the next day. But in one room of the building, the activity is just building up for Dads Can Cook, a series of six classes designed to help fathers learn to prepare healthful food for themselves and their children. “I’m enjoying the camaraderie with just dads being in the kitchen. You know I enjoy that even more than the food we talk about, the issues that we face, some on lighter side, some on more serious side, but at the same time we doin’ it, while learning how to cook. It’s uplifting to me and my little guy.”

That’s Mark Jackson with his two-year old son. Most fathers come without the kids, but Jackson is clearly enjoying this father-son time. It also helps sharing the burden of household duties, “the moms can cook but the dad’s can cook also.” Cynthia Waters directs programs and community development. The Maternity Care Coalition began in the eighties. “When we started it was at a time when Philadelphia had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, some that exceed rates of developing countries. We were trying to address infant mortality by working with pregnant women as early in their pregnancy as possible.”

And while the coalition had its roots in caring for moms and infants, it’s a given that fathers and other male figures are important in a child’s life. Dads Can Cook is part of several programs overseen by male involvement co-ordinator Shannon Guy. “This is actually one of the classes that I didn’t have to talk people into coming to. I just put it out there and the guys took to it.”

Penn State Extension’s Nutrition Links, is partnering with the coalition in presenting the classes. Deb Winans is one of the teachers. Tonight, the class reviews basics on portion size. After bursting everyone’s bubble with the realities of portion sizes, Winans takes the evening into a more fun direction as they all head to the kitchen to make chicken burritos. While the chicken and frozen pre-sliced peppers simmer, Winans reinforces the lesson on portion control and ingredients, looking at the tortilla label. “This is what we want to make sure we are reading ingredients. So, one per serving, it has 230 calories in one of the tortillas, no fat this the thing, 540 mg of salt, that’s a lot. It’s a good idea not to use salt in your foods, salt in the other stuff. The best part of the class is undoubtedly the tasting, “hmmm really really good everything we cook here I make at home.”

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