- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Jessica Harkness hopped onto a stationary bicycle, furiously pedaling to liquefy the contents of a blender attached to the front.

Harkness was among local residents who participated in United Way of the Wabash Valley’s Summertime Snacking class on a recent Wednesday evening at Deming Park. One of the activities included making a fruit and vegetable smoothie.

“My goodness,” she said, after having stopped to add milk forgotten in the recipe. “I think it’s done.”

The class, a component of United Way’s Family Teaching Kitchen program, is part of the agency’s Healthier by 2020 Initiative. It seeks to help people learn the importance of healthy eating and develop the skills necessary to prepare healthy, low-cost meals.

United Way health activities coordinator Christina Avary, who facilitated the session, said the class is interactive and hands-on.

“So not only do they get to hear, they get to visualize, they get to hold, they get to actually prepare these meals themselves,” she said, “and I think it makes the experience a lot better all around.”

Classes are held about four times a year at various locations throughout the Valley, focusing on topics such as food safety, healthy snack and drink choices and quick, inexpensive meals.

As she drank her smoothie, Harkness said the classes are helping her efforts to make lifestyle changes.

“I am trying to eat healthy and trying to have ideas for at home,” she said.

While Purdue Extension gives her in-home nutritional classes and she belongs to the local Y, Harkness said the frequency of United Way’s classes help her remember to eat smart.

“Being reminded helps it sink in,” she said.

To supplement the healthy eating lessons, Avary challenged participants to start a walking group. Everyone received a bag with a pedometer, United Way water bottle, a magnet with the sugar content of popular drinks and a 20 percent coupon to United Way’s Mobile Market.

The market parked next to the Landsbaum Shelter, and participants had an opportunity to shop for grocery staples after class.

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Source: Tribune-Star, http://bit.ly/1HA61vi

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Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

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