When Habitat for Humanity suggested Family and Consumer Sciences Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Ian Pasquarelli’s programming would be of interest to the mainly Hispanic and low-income community of Southwood in Charlottesville, he set about developing a Spanish-language component for his family nutrition programming that has proven to be wildly successful with community members.
His programming mainly targets low-income, underserved, and underrepresented populations in the three counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, and Greene, and focuses on nutrition education, food safety, local foods, food business promotion, and human development education. The Southwood Community is identified as a low-income community in Albemarle County and is also made up of mainly Spanish speaking families, which identified them as a target audience for Pasquarelli’s programming efforts.
Specifically, the program he developed aims to educate adults and children on how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables in various ways, so they can include more of them in their daily diet.
“We focus not only on healthy meals, but also on food safety techniques, shopping for healthy foods on a budget, and the importance of sharing meals and family time together,” said Pasquarelli.
Pasquarelli has partnered with a Spanish-language interpreter to conduct his family nutrition classes, and is currently taking Spanish classes through Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension. In the future he hopes to be able to conduct the classes in Spanish himself.
To date Pasquarelli has conducted six healthy cooking classes, and due to the program’s popularity another eight are slated for this spring.
“It’s very important to make the connection between the healthy foods we should be eating, and how they need to be prepared,” said Pasquarelli. “It doesn’t do us any good to tell people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables if they don’t know how to prepare them.”