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Health Team

Raleigh nonprofit teaches cooking classes virtually during coronavirus pandemic

Posted September 25, 2020 6:00 a.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2020 7:10 a.m. EDT

— In March, staff at the Poe Center for Health Education in Raleigh were eager to bring more children into a pediatric weight management program through a teaching kitchen. Children and their parents would learn about healthy cooking methods and practice their cutting skills on a variety of vegetables.

An evening class on March 10 was the last one held before COVID-19 precautions led to the closing of all of their indoor programs.

"It was very sad," said Rachel Pohlman, the director of the center’s nutrition and physical activity programs.

Now, seven months later, their virtual cooking classes are one of the Poe Center's most popular online classes.

"People are cooking a lot more than they used to, and so it’s a skill that people are needing even more than ever," Pohlman explained.

The program provides students with groceries for all the cooking.

Assistant director for the program, Lauren McCallum, said that the online sessions have "perfect attendance."

In the last year, Poe educators have taught more than 45,880 participants from 25 counties in 1,189 programs. Almost 600 of those programs were conducted onsite, mostly in outdoor settings or smaller groups indoors with recommended health precautions followed.

Since the pandemic, 127 programs were taught in a virtual environment.

Thomas Ray, director of educational programming, said it was challenging to capture the interest of students in designing the virtual programs.

"Young people love being engaged and so if you can engage them in the online format, that’s fantastic. I will say, it’s still not the ideal," Ray said. The ideal for the classes is still in-person learning, he said.

The Poe Center for Health Education is dedicated to serving North Carolina residents. However, they have had participants log on and join many of their online classes from as far away as California.

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