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Sunflower Diversified clients learn nutrition, cooking skills
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Rhonda Little mixes up a batch of peanut butter treats at Sunflower Diversified Services. Little is a long-time Sunflower client who participates in the non-profit agencys Cooking Corner program. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

The chefs in Sunflower Diversified’s Cooking Corner have been learning new meal-preparation and kitchen skills, while celebrating several special days during classes this fall.
They have whipped up meals and treats, along with non-edible ornaments for Christmas. The recent seasonal fare has included Mummy Dogs for Halloween; apple cupcakes and green bean dumpling soup for October Fest; and Patriotic cookies for Veterans Day.
Sunflower’s cooking and nutrition classes are one product of the non-profit agency’s ongoing efforts to reinvigorate day-service offerings.
Sunflower serves people with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.
“Cooking Corner provides Sunflower clients with the opportunity to make recipes that are both educational and fun,” said Amanda Urban, training/advocacy coordinator. “The best part is their enthusiasm.
“Each person prepares a recipe or works on a project,” she explained. “Tasks are broken down into steps that allow everyone to participate in accordance with their abilities.”
Stephanie Ricke of K-State Research and Extension leads special monthly class sessions, which are in addition to Sunflower’s regular daily kitchen offerings.
“Stephanie features recipes that are easy to make but still nutritious,” Urban noted. “She also teaches hygienic food preparation. We are so grateful for her talent and willingness to jump right in and help us offer this service.
“Healthy eating is the focus,” Urban added. “Students learn to prepare snacks, main dishes and side dishes by using whole grains, low-fat ingredients, fruits and vegetables.”
Ricke, who represents K-State’s Family Nutrition Program (FNP), noted that each month she plans a new healthy-eating topic. She talks with students about “sometimes” foods and “everyday” foods, soups for all seasons, whole grains, shaking the salt habit and hand washing.
“I set up the class to educate the students and then have them make a recipe that goes with the topic,” Ricke said. “Many times, they are surprised at how easy and tasty it is to cook healthy.
“Students go home and practice what they learn at mealtime,” she continued. “Some have said their families are enjoying whole grain foods. And yes, they still eat some unhealthy foods but have started to change their habits.”
K-State’s FNP, which is also called SNAP-ED, is a nutrition education program for those eligible to receive food assistance. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
It is designed to help improve nutritional status and is offered throughout Kansas. FNP is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ricke is based in Colby at the K-State Northwest Area Research and Extension Center.