The Christopher Place program prepares its graduates to return to stable, productive, independent lives. This includes being able to cook for themselves and look after their health, so the curriculum includes the Food for Life program.
“Eat your vegetables” our parents always told us. Apparently, many of the residents of Christopher Place Employment Academy have had similar experiences. Some, however, reached adulthood without ever eating vegetables.
Regardless of what our parent’s told us, in this age of media overload, we all now know that eating vegetables is important for good health. The Christopher Place program prepares its graduates to return to stable, productive, independent lives. This includes being able to cook for themselves and look after their health, so the curriculum includes the Food for Life program. The class meets once a week for 7 weeks at lunchtime. It has two goals: to introduce the participants to healthy eating as a path to good health, and to allow them to observe how easy it is to prepare fresh food and then taste it. At the end of the 7 weeks, each graduate receives a cookbook containing the recipes they’ve tried, plus many more.
The Food for Life program is presented by Bernice DeShay of Physicians for Responsible Medicine, who also teaches the same program at Catholic Charities My Sister’s Place Women’s Center. Ms. DeShay, a long-time vegetarian and a retired nurse, started teaching Food for Life in 2009. I joined the class for lunch one day and can also attest that she is a very good cook and an enthusiastic teacher. The most frequently asked question in class that day was, “When can we eat?” Ms. DeShay demonstrated cooking techniques as she discussed the nutritional content and health benefits of the meal with the CP men, most of whom were not experienced at cooking for themselves. The lunch was not only nutritionally balanced, low in fat, salt, and calories and high in fiber, it was delicious. The vegetables were all crisp, colorful and full of flavor; it was the best lunch I had all week. Many of the men had seconds and people from all other the building dropped in looking for leftovers after class.
Ms. DeShay shared that during her tenure teaching at CP, she has seen men who have never eaten vegetables learn to like them, men with diabetes and other chronic health problems who have been able to reduce their medications and several who have lost weight without dieting.