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Extension > Family Matters > Featured Partner: West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Featured Partner: West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc.

What makes West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc really stand out is their ability to envision possibility. “What if we...” is so often the beginning of a conversation with the folks at WCMCA.

WCMCA works to reduce the effects of poverty through a number of programs, from Head Start to fuel assistance. WCMCA understands how important relationships are in all these efforts; they have a deep understanding of the communities they serve.

“Cooking Smart” is one of those innovative, “What if we...” programs that is based on WCMCA's understanding of the community they serve. The idea came from realizing that some of the Head Start families would benefit from learning how to cook on a budget. Jill Fyre, family sufficiency coordinator, found a church to partner with and arranged for child care. A small grant provided groceries. Parents came with their kids, community nutrition educators provided great cooking tips and fun ways to discuss making food healthy, and then everyone ate together. It was like a party!

Jill tells of a successful connection:
During one of the Cooking Smart classes, we had an older woman who was developmentally delayed and lived by herself. She was eager to learn new skills. When we shared that part of the menu would be making fresh salsa from scratch, she exclaimed, ‘Wouldn’t my family be impressed if I brought THAT to the next family dinner!’ As the class went on, she started sharing about the financial struggles she’d been having. West Central staff helped her fill out an application for SNAP, and got her information on a couple of local food shelves. Extension staff talked with her about how to safely store things she could get in bulk and some recipes that use inexpensive ingredients. At the end of the class, we sent her home with extra supplies and leftovers. It was a really wonderful experience for everyone involved.


“Working with the University of Minnesota Extension has been a wonderful partnership," Jill says. "Together, we share a mission: to reach out to households struggling to meet their basic food needs with potential resources and education in healthy and budget-friendly meal preparation. Extension staff have entertained with food preparation and sampling during mobile food drops, taught Cooking Smart cooking classes that West Central hosts, and created recipes, curricula, and great outreach materials for our shared work in SNAP Outreach and Education.”

For more information, visit West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc.

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