It was a bittersweet evening in the CSU Western Campus Teaching Kitchen. Dr. Susan Sayers offered her final thoughts and instruction to the participants of the Summer Food For Life Class. The last class of the 6–week course is traditionally a potluck and offers participants a chance to highlight what they have learned and how they have adopted a plant–based diet with a delicious dish. Classmates took turns describing their dish, suggesting recipe alterations, adding personal anecdotes about their skeptical spouses, and proudly sharing their learning curves and successes. Laughter erupted with each faux–pas and relatable challenge. The variety and creativity of dishes was impressive; from deviled “eggs” to banana “bacon” to BBQ jackfruit sliders, closely resembling pulled pork sandwiches. Classmates made notes like “I know some of you are gluten free so I made this with gluten free flour,” and “I used that dairy–free ricotta that you recommended!” Over the course of 6 weeks, the room of 30 strangers had connected over the mission for a healthier life. The sense of community the class participants had created was evident, and their interest and eagerness to share their experience was inspiring.
The Food For Life class is a program offered at Primary Care Partners and Dr. Sayer’s passion project. The course includes information about how certain foods and nutrients work to promote health and fight disease. Matt, a class participant, decided to join after his primary care physician said he needed to make a significant diet change to vegetarian/vegan, or begin medication. His wife, Cari, joined him in the class to learn how to make healthier meals to support her husband’s new diet, while feeding a large family. Both Matt and Cari said the class was a huge help in learning how to make interesting vegan and vegetarian meals and were excited to refer their family members to the next class.
The classes work to translate complex, scientific nutrition information into simple and easy meals. Many participants noted how easy the lectures and videos were to comprehend and made it easy to apply the information to their own lives and health goals.
Each Food for Life nutrition and cooking class features a nutrition lecture and live cooking demonstration. Dr. Sayers’ husband, Tom, a former cancer researcher and pharmacist, assists with the preparation and class operation. Class participants voiced their adoration for the pair and noted how passionate and encouraging Tom and Dr. Sayers were. “They really believe in this and want us to succeed,” said Paula who expressed her profound gratitude for Dr. Sayers. Paula attended the class with her daughter. She said they both learned so much and looked forward to sharing their experiences with others to encourage them to change their mindset and improve their health. Paula continued, “It actually gave me my willpower back. I was discouraged after learning how much the food industry manipulates our eating habits. This gave me control over my food and my health.”
Other participants cited reasons like “preventative health” and ”wanting to improve their cooking skills” for wanting to join the class. Others were just curious after seeing the class promoted and decided to sign up.
As participants started packing their belongings, cleaning their space, and saying their bittersweet goodbyes to one another and Dr. Sayers, it was clear that the information they had learned and the inspiration to improve their health, would last a lifetime.