A new program, "Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters for Adults" is being offered at Zion United Church of Christ to help local families stretch their food budgets.

The program is being held for the first time in Carbon County by Second Harvest Food Bank. Sessions are from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the next five Mondays at the church. The program has been offered, with much success, in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Ainsley Benner of Second Harvest Food Bank is the coordinator. At the Carbon County site, she is assisted by chef Julie McHugh, FCCLA adviser and family and consumer science teacher at Lehighton Area High School; Nancy Matyas, dietitian at Blue Mountain Health System; and cooking assistant Oznur Aaygi-Arstan.

The program's goals are to teach needy families how to prepare simple, inexpensive and nutritious meals, which will provide proper nutrition for children and adults.

Benner had each of the 10 participants fill out registration forms and questionnaires, which she said will help her determine their skill levels.

Then it was time for the hands-on portion of the class, where Benner explained the importance of hand washing before demonstrating how to chop and cube vegetables in a safe manner.

The menu for the first week was "The Works Pizza," and "Fresh Fruit with Warm Honey Yogurt Topping."

"We're following the federal guidelines for the new 'My Plate' program," said Benner. "Each meal we'll prepare will have a representation of each food group."

Benner said that the pizza would be very colorful.

"The vegetables will be from one food group, while the cheese topping will fit into the dairy food group," she said. "Plus we will have fresh fruit in the yogurt," she added. "Every meal will meet the challenge to feed eight people for $10 or less."

All three of Benner's assistants are volunteering their time at the church.

"I'm here to share my love of cooking," said McHugh.

Matyas said that she became a dietitian because she wanted to help people lead healthier lives.

"I love helping people make better choices," she said.

After making the delicious pizza, each participant was able to eat the food, and then they were able to take home groceries to prepare the meal they made in class again at home.

Later sessions will also include a guided grocery tour and store gift card, and more opportunities to learn hands-on cooking skills with the chef instructor.

"We want the participants to learn about nutrition and how to make healthy food choices and grocery shopping tips and learn how to stretch their food budget," said Benner.

For additional information, call Barry at 484-553-6264.