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East Texas Food Bank seeking soul food chefs to teach healthy cooking class

The East Texas Food Bank is looking for one to two volunteers to help develop its nutrition department’s Soul Food Sessions.

The sessions are an adaptation of the Cooking Matters course taught by the food bank. Cooking Matters is a six-week course that meets for two hours weekly with a group of participants to explore food management skills such as cooking healthy on a budget, meal planning, food safety, and cooking techniques. The class is free to participants and meals are prepared in class with a free bag of groceries for that week’s recipe for each participant family.

Volunteer culinary instructors teach people of all ages how to cook and shop for healthy, low-cost foods. They combine their knowledge and experience with lesson plans and recipes provided in the Cooking Matters curricula. The class is team-taught with a nutritionist. A training session in teaching through facilitated dialogue and how to create a learner-centered environment are required of all volunteers.

Culinary volunteers are usually either graduates of or enrolled in a two-year culinary training program or have at least two years working as a cook or chef. However professional experience is not required and the emphasis for this class will be an individual who is familiar with cooking techniques specifically in soul food. Experienced home chefs are welcome to apply.

The first series is set for Saturday mornings, beginning the second weekend in June at the Glass Recreation Center, 501 W. 32nd St. This class is limited to eight families and a second fall series will follow based on participant interest.

Interested volunteers can contact Christina Balduf at 903-253-3776 or




Soul food often gets a bad reputation, however, it’s use of a variety of local fruits and vegetables in techniques passed down through generations is a good basis for a healthful diet.

Culinary historian Adrian Miller notes that the framework of  West African cooking–where soul food derives from– included a diet filled with dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, legumes, and fish. Cooking with meat was done less often, and frying meat was for special occasions.

“If you actually look at rural roots of soul food in the antebellum South, it was a cuisine primarily based on seasonal vegetables, and very little meat was eaten,” he says on his website,

In other words, it is possible to have healthy soul dishes that taste good without fatty meats, processed ingredients, and excessive amounts of salt and sugar.







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