September 21, 2016

Students demo low-cost, healthy recipes at Birmingham farmer’s market

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UAB medical students are trading their textbooks and scalpels for fresh produce and chef knives to prove that healthy, affordable meals can taste good, too.

ELFM photo1Pictured (left to right) are Trent Archie, Andrew Janssen and Wilson King. Students from the UAB School of Medicine are spending Saturday mornings in September at the East Lake Farmer’s Market in Birmingham, preparing and serving samples of nutritious and affordable dishes each week to showcase the benefits of healthy eating and its impact on a person’s health.

“There’s a misconception out there that you aren’t able to eat healthy at an affordable price, and that healthy food tastes bad,” said Jenny Stevens, a fourth-year M.D. /MPH student from Jackson, Ala., who participated in the cooking demonstrations earlier this month. “One thing we really want to show is that eating healthy isn’t a punishment— you can have food that tastes really good, that’s affordable and is good for you.”

Coordinated through the school’s Office of Service Learning, the idea originated last spring as the winner in the first-ever Service Learning Celebration, in which students presented ideas for more service learning opportunities to address social determinants of health—factors like poverty, education/health literacy and  housing/homelessness— they’re likely to see in their medical school careers.

“We heard from students that they wanted more content on nutrition as an expansion of what they learn in their fundamentals of medicine courses during the first year of medical school,” said Kristin Boggs, MSW, director of the Office of Service Learning in the SOM.  “We hope this experience will give our students a chance to interact with individuals from different backgrounds and benefit people in the East Lake community.”

The office partnered with UAB School of Health Professions alum Rosemary Dallam, a local registered dietician and culinary educator, for a two-hour crash course on food preparation and the nutrition benefits of certain foods.  Each recipe came from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Website, and has a nutrition-based educational component, like using less sodium or lower fat foods.

IMG 1944Pictured (left to right) are: Madeline Dills, Jenny Stevens, Milza Opper and Dylan Nichols.  “What’s great about these recipes is that they didn’t require a ton of ingredients or a great degree of skill—just chop up these vegetables and you’re ready to go in about 10 minutes,” said Madeline Dills, a second-year medical student from Hoover.

Dills, who participated at the farmers market earlier this month with Stevens, along with Milza Opper, an M.D./MPH student from Alabaster, and Dylan Nichols, a medical student from Tuscaloosa, said the students passed out more than 30 samples of their Rainbow Vegetable Salad dish and had several people approach them for copies of the recipe and to get more information.

 “We had a lot people come up and talk to us about how they cook certain foods and asking us questions about who we were and what we were doing there,” Opper said. “There was a lot of interest in both the cooking side and the medical and nutrition information, which was really great to see.”