Healthy Cooking Classes Teach Hungry Israelis to Make More With Less

“I am going to bring her relief and healing. I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of true favor.” Jeremiah 33:6 (The Israel Bible™)

Two leading Israeli charity organizations are joining forces to educate impoverished Israelis about nutrition after studies reveal that many poor people tend to eat cheaper, unhealthier foods which lack nutrients.

Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest running charity organization, along with Leket Israel, an organization which distributes surplus, nutritious food to the poor, found that many impoverished people often eat cheap junk foods made of white flour and sugary products and lack the education to cook healthful meals from relatively inexpensive ingredients. The organizations have teamed up to help change the eating habits of those in need.

As part of “The Food Security Project”, managed jointly by Colel Chabad, Leket Israel, and Israel’s Welfare Ministry, four-session workshops are being run in cooperation with the Israeli Nutritionists and Dietitians Association, the Sustainable Nutrition Forum, and the National Nutritional Security Council.

The “Nutrition for Life Program” includes workshops to educate people about nutrition and safe food practices. Participants say that most of what they are learning is new to them.

The pilot program was launched from Israel’s southern city of Yavneh, where 118 families receive food subsidies from the Food Security Project. Of those families, 35 are taking the course.

Food Security Program Director Hila Yadai, who is running the pilot class in Yavneh, stated that she is deeply encouraged by the response from the participants. “Already at the second class, we had some of the women come over to us and mention the new foods they prepared based on the first class. Some proudly told us how they are drinking much more water instead of juice. It gives us a real sense of fulfillment that we aren’t just handing out food but giving them the tools to better manage their kitchens and their budgets.”

The teacher, dietician Sivan David, focuses on specific products to create healthful and tasty meals while remaining within budget. Sivan says that homemakers tend to rely on familiar products rather than experimenting with more nutritious items like quinoa, which is similar to rice but higher in protein and other vitamins, and whole grains.

As part of Colel Chabad’s many social-welfare programs, the organization operates “Pantry Packers”, a warehouse where volunteers pack fresh fruits and vegetables along with dried goods like beans, pasta and rice. “Though we have always provided homes with fresh and dried food staples, including quinoa, we have recently added to our repertoire whole wheat couscous and whole wheat pasta in an effort to provide needy people with even more nutritious food,” told Rabbi Menachem Traxler, Director of Volunteering for Pantry Packers. “Poor eating habits can lead to obesity, diabetes and other diet-related health problems. We do our best to limit the challenges that impoverished people need to overcome.”

Participants in the “Nutrition for Life” program have learned to make and serve simple yet quality meals using the ingredients that they receive from Colel Chabad and other charity organizations. For example, participants put together meals with whole grain breads, fresh vegetables, tehini (sesame paste, populate in Israel), tuna salad and hard boiled eggs, salmon, salad, quinoa with lentils and more.

“At this time of the Jewish New Year, we bless everyone with a happy, sweet and healthy year,” emphasizes Rabbi Traxler. “This important workshop and the food Colel Chabad supplies to struggling families brings the participants one step closer to this blessing.”

To donate to Colel Chabad, please visit here.