Eat local. Eat fresh. Eat together.

September 29th, 2016 by Live Well Omaha Kids

During Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Live Well Omaha Kids is spotlighting various organizations and programs which promote physical activity and healthy eating to youth. Today, David Kinney, Chef and Cooking Matters Program Coordinator tells us about Cooking Matters and shares tips for buying fresh foods at farmers markets.

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vna-blog-visualCooking Matters, one of the many programs offered by the Visiting Nurse Association here in Omaha, is part of the national No Kid Hungry Campaign to end childhood hunger in America. Cooking Matters teaches courses to low-income families, teaching them how to eat, cook and shop healthier on a limited budget. Chef and nutrition instructors team up to teach nutrition information, food budgeting, grocery shopping, cooking techniques, food safety and so much more. The goal is to get families cooking more at home, getting kids involved in the cooking process and making healthier meals while still sticking to their budget.

All Cooking Matters recipes will feed a family of four for under $10! A big focus of Cooking Matters this year has been towards the use of more local, fresh produce. While canned and frozen fruits and veggies are a great, budget friendly option during the winter months, taking advantage of our local farmer’s markets during the summer and fall can be a great family activity and a way to get kids more involved in the shopping process. Many of the markets in Omaha accept SNAP and WIC, which is a huge bonus for families on a limited budget.

Cooking Matters Program Coordinator and chef, David Kinney, has some great tips for shopping at your local markets:

  • When you are looking around for a new car, or a new house or apartment, you want a good deal but you normally won’t go with the cheapest option.  The cheapest option will typically cost you more in the long run, maintenance, repairs, headache and sorrow, so why would you choose what you eat so differently?  Dollar menus seem like such a great deal, they’re quick and cheap, but we’re playing the long game here folks, and need to watch what we are putting in our bodies.  I am not necessarily advocating for organically grown, politely picked, gently packaged ingredients, grown by monks and sold wrapped in banana leaves.  What I am supporting is fruits and vegetables, and the people that grow them.  We have such a wealth of amazing ingredients and products readily available it’s almost sad how few people take the time to visit local farmer’s markets, forge relationships with the growers and producers, and cook at home.
  • But the farmer’s markets can be expensive.  If you sit down and compare prices from what is at the store to what is at the market, you’ll find that the prices really aren’t that different, and there is a lot less haggling at the grocery store.  Go to the market, and go often.  Find a grower or producer you like and form a relationship, remember the long game I mentioned, this is part of that.  If you support a farmer they will support you, after all after a few weeks you’ll be friends right?
  • I’m worried about the crowds. Go early, or go late.  There are pros and cons to both, especially if you aren’t a morning person, but there will be significantly less people at the very beginning and the very end.  Near the end your selection will be more limited, but you may also find deals that weren’t present earlier in the day, as farmer’s and growers bundle produce or cut prices in an effort to take as little produce back with them as they can.  Buy in bulk, plan ahead and though a lot of the booths accept cards, cash is king. Many markets also except SNAP, some even have extra incentives when you pay with SNAP, which is a huge bonus for those shopping the markets on a limited food budget.
  • Why would I go to the farmers market when I can just visit my neighborhood grocery store? Going to the market is more than just shopping, it’s an experience for both young and old, seeing where produce comes from and meeting the people that grow it.  No other place will you be able to shake the hand of the man or woman that, months ago, prepared the soil, planted the seeds, and then wiped the dirt off of the produce in front of you today.  Cooking is an extension of that hard work and dedication, honoring the hard work that the grower invested, by treating what they grew in the right way, and I guarantee they want to hear about it.  Some of the best conversations I have had are with people the week after they bought something at the market, the excitement in their voice telling me about what they had made and how it turned out.  Sometimes it was amazing and other times it was a learning experience.
  • Visiting the market can be a great family activity. Bring the kids and let them see all the market has to offer. Introduce them to new things they may have never seen before and get them involved! Let them pick out a veggie they want and help decide what you can make with it. Getting them involved in the process from purchasing to cooking makes it much easier to get them to eat their veggies! Preparing the food at home also gives the cook total control of what goes into your meal, and is in its own way a form of therapy. Don’t be afraid to let the kids help prepare the meal too. Remind them of the experience of the market when you purchased the veggies and let them help with the older kids help with the chopping and cooking and the younger kids can help measure, stir and scoop. When preparing a meal, that should be the focus, everything outside of the kitchen fades away as the concentration shifts from the cutting board, to the sink, to the oven.  This is a part of the long game.

For budget friendly, nutritious recipe ideas, visit or download our free Cooking Matters app on your smart phone!



2 Comments on “Eat local. Eat fresh. Eat together.”

  1. 1 Michael said at 10:36 am on December 17th, 2016:

    It’s quite alarming the amount of attention we give to what we wear and how we look without giving attention to what we eat. The funniest part is that, what we eat actually play a very crucial role in the way we look.

    Thanks for sharing this article, it’s very helpful.

  2. 2 Melissa said at 3:48 pm on May 29th, 2017:

    Childhood obesity is really a problem that has been long ignored. Parents need to take special care of their kids and avoid junk food at any cost. Only then we can control the rate of childhood obesity.

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