Healthy groceries, check. Gloves, check. Aprons, check. Hair nets, check.

With the success of a six-week sponsored nutrition and exercise program, working within the local faith-based community, those involved this year are optimistic it could grow in the future.

This pilot program combines two initiatives – Cooking Matters and Faithful Families.

It is called “Faithful Families: Eating Smart and Moving More.” It started Jan. 14 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Greenwood.

The final Monday evening class is scheduled for Feb. 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Similar programming has been successful in North Carolina.

Faithful Families is sponsored by Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute SNAP-Ed, Lander University, Molina Healthcare, Greater Greenwood United Ministries, the City of Greenwood and Trinity UMC.

It is being funded through grants and sponsorships, and provided free of charge to participants who are learning about basic nutrition, buying and preparing family meals and simple physical activities to promote health and fitness.

As a pilot program, it is an initiative of Eat Smart, Move More Greenwood County.

Participants in this first effort have included members of Trinity UMC in Greenwood and clients served by Greater Greenwood United Ministry.

During the Feb. 4 class at Trinity UMC, participants were taught some yoga, had a cooking class in the church kitchen and got to take home recipes and ingredients to try cooking at home later. The session began and ended with prayer.

Debra Coleman of Trinity UMC said, “We were approached about this program when we inquired about renting the Uptown Market in Greenwood for a church service.” Coleman said the church first heard about Faithful Families from Stephanie Turner, Uptown Market manager.

Turner is a member of the Eat Smart, Move More Greenwood County coalition.

“Several of us from the church read about the program and I agreed to be project manager for it,” Coleman said. “It involves cooking and I am a trained chef, who graduated from Art Institute of Houston. I’m a lay servant and trustee here at Trinity UMC. We asked people if they would be interested in learning about healthy eating.

“As people of faith, we are interested in not only people’s hearts, but their bodies,” Coleman continued. “We’ve learned about chair yoga, as well as standing poses and about eating healthy.”

Some participants, Coleman said, have been interested in the program as a way to address various health concerns.

In one of the first classes, Coleman said they learned how to use air fryers. These trending kitchen appliances cook foods by circulating hot air around foods via convection, without the amounts of oil and/or fat you would need for traditional frying methods.

Participants have learned to make healthy bean soups, kale and Brussels sprouts slaw, homemade dressings, apple crisps and more.

At the conclusion of the six weeks, participants will receive a Cooking Matters cookbook, reinforcing healthy cooking techniques and recipes learned through the program. Also, a class will be conducted in a grocery store to teach “how to really shop,” Coleman said.

“These classes have been pretty full, with 12 to 14 people,” Coleman said. “We have students in high school to people in their 80s.”

Among those who are enrolled in this pilot program are Samuel and Diane Lester of Greenwood, who found out about Faithful Families through Greater Greenwood United Ministry.

“One of the biggest things I have learned through this is how to use spices to enhance flavors,” Diane Lester said. “We’ve been taught how to make spice sachets and how to tie them on to pot lids. The spices have made our food taste a lot better. I’m also learning about healthier oils for cooking and zucchini noodles. I’m finding out that cooking healthier doesn’t have to cost more.”

Diane Lester, 56, said she’s the primary cook in the household, but husband, Samuel, who turns 75 next month, said he’s learning how to cook through Faithful Families.

“I’ve never been exposed to mixing and all of that before, but it’s not too late to learn,” Samuel Lester said. “I’m having lots of fun being around people. I never thought cooking was interesting before, but being here, it is.”

The Lesters are also trying to cook together.

An added bonus is that Samuel said he has dropped about nine pounds since starting the program and Debra Coleman says she has lost 10.

“I think the different, healthier eating is the key,” Coleman said. “We’re all learning, whether it’s making healthier substitutions, making menus and shopping from a list, or trying new fruits and vegetables. Cooking can be fun and we’re enjoying the fellowship with each other.”

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518