SMART University Educating Women Through Cooking Classes

  Photo courtesy of SMART University

SMART, an acronym for Sisterhood Mobilized for AID/HIV Research and Treatment, is a not-for-profit organization that works hard to create a safe haven where women living with HIV or AIDS in New York City can get support from their peers and gain education through hands-on classes. The organization’s SMART Body workshop couples nutrition education with hands-on cooking lessons. These tutorials provide the women of SMART a chance to try new foods and learn healthier cooking methods that can better the overall health of themselves and their families.

Photo courtesy of SMART University

SMART believes that health conscious, educated woman are the foundation to building thriving communities. Each nutrition class informs the participants of ways to stay healthy by eating proper foods, and ensuring that important health issues are addressed so that the women make educated decisions on what they eat and how they  cook in their kitchens. The entire group goes into the on-site industrial kitchen and prepares foods that exemplify the earlier lecture. Once all the recipes are prepared, the members and staff all come together to share the assembled meal. At the end of the class each woman receives a pantry bag that contains the ingredients used in each recipe so that they can repeat what they learned at home.

The difference this organization makes in people’s lives are staggering. A whopping 95% of all attendees have self-reported a decrease in eating fatty processed foods and an increase in healthier cooking methods. Recently, the women of the program constructed a delicious cookbook based on the recipes they assembled in class. This activity gave the women a chance to express their creativity and give back to the community what they acquired from SMART. You can download the compendium on the SMART website.

SMART is continuously looking towards the future, and was recently picked to receive city funding for a mobile cooking classroom. This sector of the organization will help broaden their vision and mission of improving the health outcomes for families in the New York City area by traveling from neighborhood to neighborhood bringing nutrition education and access to healthy foods to anyone who needs its.

“Our core mission,” says Susan Rodriquez, founder director, “has been to improve the quality of life for every woman we touch with our holistic health model. For some women," she says, "simply showing up has been a testament to resilience and courage." You can donate to SMART by visiting their website and clicking on the Donate to SMART button.