First class graduates from program that teaches to prepare healthy, affordable meals

Photos courtesy of Marie Gabalski: Sarah Martin, a nutritionist with SNAP, demonstrates how to make tacos at the first Stone Soup classes at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension. The program was funded by a $250,000 grant from Highmark.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 28 February 2023 at 1:08 pm

Sarah Martin (left), SNAP nutritionist, and Marie Gabalski, nutrition program coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, clown around during a break in the first series of Stone Soup.

KNOWLESVILLE – A new program funded by a Highmark grant of $250,000 is teaching families with limited incomes how to eat healthy on a budget.

The grant was an idea developed at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee with assistance from Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Called Stone Soup, the first six-week classes at Cornell Cooperative Extension on the fairgrounds just ended with 21 graduates, said Cooperative Extension nutrition coordinator Marie Gabalski.

Each week, participants in the classes learned something different, such as food groups, fiber, fats and carbs, how to read food labels, fruits and vegetables and how to shop affordably, Gabalski said.

“We try to make it fun,” she said. “Twenty-six people registered for the first series of classes and 21 graduated. Classes for March and May are already full.”

Participants who attended all six classes and graduation received a kitchen kit which included a skillet, utensils, hot plate and an Instapot.

Many positive comments were received on the classes. One lady said, “I enjoyed learning how to pair healthy ingredients into a meal and knowing what and how to choose.”

Another commented, “What was important to me was being talked to and not ‘at.’The information was easy to understand.”

Yet another said she enjoyed learning about nutrition and healthy options. “I didn’t know the difference in types of fat before,” she said.

During July, the nutritionists are planning a similar program with school children. Registration for May classes is being prioritized for those who attend the meal program at Community Action’s center in Holley. Others will be placed on a waiting list for the Stone Soup program in the fall.

While Stone Soup was developed with low-income families in mind, there is no income requirement and anyone who wishes to sign up may contact Gabalski at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, (585) 798-4265.

Marie Gabalski, nutrition coordinator at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension, hands out certificate of completion to Rosemary Fisher and Beth Williams. 

Members of the first graduating class of Stone Soup at Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension get their free gifts, including an Instapot, hot plate and utensils. Marie Gabalski, Cooperative Extension nutritionist, left, hands out kits to Jane Read, Janine Parker, right, and Alicia Dingman, rear.