NEW ORLEANS -- A group of public health graduates is working to help people with chronic illness in a way that doesn’t include the usual medicine -- working with them in the kitchen.
Graduate students at the LSU School of Public Health had an idea. Take some campus green space for a vegetable garden and teach patients from University Medical Center with chronic health problems how to grow their own food and then create healthful dishes.
"Food is medicine,” Jasmine Meyer said. Meyer is an LSUHSC public health student who is graduating with her master’s degree in May.
“It's everything. So eating healthy food, especially locally grown food which has more nutrition, is really beneficial to prevent or treat all chronic diseases," Meyer said.
Older students, who have been cooking all of their lives, are learning life-saving skills.
On their last day of class, one student in the first Cooking Matters class, Gilbert Noel, said he has learned a lot.
"I'm a diabetic so I want to learn some diabetic secrets," Noel said. "It's helped tremendously. I've learned a lot."
Other students said the garden has given them a chance to teach.
"A lot of the people don't even know what some of the vegetables are,” observed Jenna Richlie, another graduating LSUHSC student. “They've never seen them before in their life. I've had confusion of tomatoes and apples, so it's pretty impressive just how much of a gap there is between food and what it is and where it comes from."
George Fitzgerald learned about food growing up on his grandfather's farm in Peru. He decided to volunteer for the program after seeing the old style way the locals fix food.
"I'm contributing to the health, eating healthy, especially here in New Orleans, Fitzgerald said. When asked about the local style of cooking, he laughed and said, "Yeah, a lot of butter."
Shrimp Creole over whole wheat fettuccine and a Moroccan carrot salad in the 'Cooking Matters' class is just one of the dishes taught.
When asked if students have learned to like food that is good for them, they said yes, and they’ve learned to appreciate it more also.
The mission of Students for Sustainability is to promote awareness of environmental issues and to start and run student projects that environmentally help the campus and community.