The tribal agent aims to improve the health of residents living on the Navajo Nation in the San Juan County by providing education on healthy food choices, food preparation and preservation, family resource management, and diabetes. Since the fall of 2011, the agent has conducted twenty adult food preservation workshops with a total of one hundred eighteen participants, meeting of the growing interest in home canning. The classes were held in Shiprock at the NMSU tribal extension office during the weekday and in the evening. Skill levels ranged from those who had never canned before to those who have previously canned years ago, but needed a refresher course. Kitchen Creations is also a growing annual program. Since 2010, the agent collaborated with Northern Navajo Medical Center’s diabetes program and their certified diabetic educator to teach the Kitchen Creations Diabetic Cooking School lessons to diabetics from the Shiprock area. The classes are held at the New Mexico State University’s tribal extension office in Shiprock, NM. The classes were held in the evening and during the weekday to reach the working population. To date, there have been fifty-two participants that have completed the classes. The participants gained knowledge in reading nutrition labels, sugar substitutes, and appropriate portion sizes, how to count carbohydrate, meal planning and how to prepare meals that are low in fat, sodium and carbohydrate during the hands-on class sessions.
Fortunately, the New Mexico Department of Health-Diabetes Prevention and Control Unit funds the classes and partners with NMSU Cooperative Extension Service making it possible to offer the free of charge classes.
Participant evaluations showed that at the end of the classes they were practicing the 50/50 plate method in how to portion their meals (70%); reading nutritional labels when buying groceries (70%); and using spices instead of the traditional use of salt for better taste (80%). Participants stated “It was fun learning different ways to cook”, “Trying different types of food and it actually tasted great”, “Portion control is very important.” Many were also surprised to learn that the amount of added salt in foods was so high and that it is very important to focus on total carbohydrates not grams of sugar, listed on the labels. Lastly, participants stated they were excited to prepare healthy meals from their new recipe books they all received.