Parents Who Live in Food Desert Learn Healthy Cooking Tips Through DISD Class

The Dallas Independent School District is taking parents at Nathaniel Hawthorne Elementary in Pleasant Grove back to school. On Tuesday afternoon, nearly two dozen parents came to a cooking class in the school gym.

"Let's go to the garlic," DISD Chef Trina Nelson said to the class. "Holding the knife tight, ok? Just like that...easy right?"

The focus of the weekly class is on changing habits to eat healthier.

"This neighborhood is in one of the areas the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as a 'food desert'," Julie Farris said. Farris is DISD Director of Food and Nutrition Services.

There are 40 areas in Dallas designated as urban 'food deserts', because access to healthy, fresh food is more than a mile away. Many of the food offerings around Hawthorne Elementary in Pleasant Grove are fast food and convenience stores. A recent study out of U.T. San Antonio shows people who live in food deserts have a greater risk of obesity, and that has a trickle down effect for other health issues.

"It's why we're having fun today in a cooking class," Farris said. "To show the parents how they can use the food that they're being provided in a healthy way way at home."

Every week, families from Hawthorne Elementary get a grocery bag packed with free fruits and vegetables from Brighter Bites, a non-profit that delivers fresh food to families. In North Texas, they serve 20 schools in Dallas, Garland, and Mesquite Independent School Districts.

"I was like, wow, that's a lot of veggies in there and fruits," Edith Bravo said after receiving her first bag of fresh food last year. Bravo said she wasn't sure how to cook some of the items because she didn't grow up eating that way. "Mostly, like, fast food and stuff like that."

"We let them come in and taste it," Chef Nelson said. "Once they taste it, then we explain to them what it is and they go, oh, I've never had this before."

The goal is to change eating habits not just for today, but for a lifetime.

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