08 Feb

Nutrition & Literacy Make a Delicious Dish

A 7-week cooking course at LSA combined nutrition guidance and language lessons, with delicious results!

Along with preparation of a nutritious recipe, the group participated in discussions based on weekly themes ranging from eating healthy on a budget to using traditional healing practices. For children participating, arts and craft ideas emphasized healthy eating and language preservation. The course targeted speakers of indigenous languages, such as Nahuatl, Mixteco and Mam, and ran from November 2017 through January 2018.

“The nutrition class was of great benefit to our families,” said Inginia Garcia, Parenting and Child Development Supervisor.  “It not only demonstrated a healthier method of cooking well known meals that the parents usually make for their families, but also how to increase vegetables and decreasing meats. We were also able to discuss natural remedies that are often used, while creating an environment for increased socialization and communication in which we learned from each other.”

The program was offered in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Endangered Language Alliance. The Endangered Language Alliance (ELA) is an independent non-profit based in New York City that documents underdescribed and endangered languages, educating a larger public and collaborating with communities.


“The cooking-language group provided a space where speakers of indigenous languages of the Americas could share cultural experiences, traditions, and their linguistic ties while learning more about healthy eating and nutrition.”

Wendy Miron, Director of the Parenting and Child Development program


Irwin Sanchez was one of the lead instructors of the group.  Learn more about how he combines cooking instruction with teaching others about the Nahuatl language & heritage:

https://www.wnyc.org/story/saving-endangered-language-one-tamale-time/

http://remezcla.com/food/tamales-nahuatl-cooking-class/

http://citylore.org/event/more-than-maize-mole-nahuatl-language-through-food/

Nutrition & language class

Participants in the class discuss both the nutrition and vocabulary around various ingredients included in the evening’s recipe.

Irwin Sanchez, one of the class leaders, prepares some nopales for a salad by cutting off the needles. “Nopal” is a word of Nahuatl origin for the pads of the prickly pear cactus. Nopales are highly nutritious and available at some grocery stores in East Harlem.

Before: ingredients for a nutritious salad, featuring nopales.

After: a salad of quinoa, nopales, kale and tomatoes is paired with stewed chicken and rice and pigeon peas (gandules).