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Cambridge Food Bank delivers free cooking classes

Community Nutrition Coordinator aims to make the world a better place, one bite at a time
Chaitali Maybhate
Supplied photo

Many who join are first-time users of the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank, are pleasantly surprised that the organization offers more than just food hampers.

When COVID-19 hit, Community Nutrition Coordinator, Chaitali Maybhate, was running multiple culinary programs for her Cambridge Food Bank community – including Lunch and Learn and Global Kitchen.

Directed by Canada's Food Guide, the programs are designed to encourage confidence and self-reliance for people of all ages, including kids, teens, parents and seniors. For those who need one-on-one assistance, Maybhate will take the time to call and walk through each step of the culinary process.

“A typical session in such a program means that pre-registered participants would receive their food hampers at home before the session begins. Then during the actual session, I demonstrate a recipe and talk about the nutrition details of the ingredients and their benefits.”

Maybhate, who goes by Chai, created a Periodic Table of Spices with flavours from all over the world. She says her goal is to help create savoury recipes without the use of sugar, fat, and salt.

When COVID-19 hit, the nutrition specialist focused her energy on creating virtual programs. Online cooking sessions now include Sensational Smoothies, Pandemic Pantry, One Dish Meal, and Share a Recipe.

Cooking with Chai sessions are concluded with a Q&A period – the goal, to reduce social isolation while teaching the importance of meal planning and including fruits and vegetables in a well-balanced diet.

The Lunch and Learn program provides kids with grow kits, producing vegetables and herbs. Maybhate teaches them how to use their harvest to create pizzas with silly faces, and sunflower sprout pesto zoodles made from zucchini noodles.

“These programs are a great blessing to parents of school-going kids as kids can get some off-screen time and engage in some creative activity.”

Participants of the Sensational Smoothie workshop receive a mini blender as well as all the ingredients needed for making smoothies, taught via Zoom.

Seventeen local families attended the Pandemic Pantry class. “Each participant received a Food Storage Handlers’ Guide (Ontario) with recipes and ingredients in their hamper,” said Maybhate. A virtual Cooking with Chai session taught members how to make bread using two alternatives, active dry yeast or baking soda and yogurt.

The cooking classes are conducted from the Cambridge Food Bank’s commercial kitchen. Maybhate says the virtual classes are designed to help visual learners absorb the content. “They can ask questions by raising their hand or typing in the chatbox. They enjoy learning together and getting their answers immediately while cooking,” she said. “Also, participants learn about kitchen safety and cleaning procedures, as well.”

For Maybhate, it’s more than just a job at a food bank. The programs she spearheads allow her to combine her passions; cooking and community service, which she admits she couldn’t do without the support of her team. “I am here to spread awareness about better health for everyone by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Together, let us make the world a better place, one bite at a time,” she said.

Cambridge residents can register for all workshops for free by calling 519-622-6550 x206. A hamper containing all necessary ingredients is distributed on the day of the workshop. Recipes cater to dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance, gluten-free and vegetarian diets.

To help support these programs visit their website for food donation items most needed.


Chaitali's Wellness Recipe


Healthy, fresh, local, seasonal food                         60 units

Behavioural health habits, positive thinking             20 units

Relationship within the community                          20 units

Fun to taste (less stress, more fun)                        As required
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