St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s Health Center provides free primary health care for low-income, uninsured adults in Pinellas County who have little means to receive adequate health care. 

The Free Clinic has long offered health education classes as a way to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure beyond the use of medications. When Wendy Wesley, RDN joined the Free Clinic in January, the Free Clinic’s learning series expanded to include a number of cooking classes to help people feel more comfortable creating healthy meals at home.

Meals cooked at home have far less sodium and fat, but people often feel too busy to cook or lack confidence in their cooking skills. Wendy is aiming to teach people how to make meals that are quick and easy, yet healthy and flavorful.

As a registered dietitian and nutritionist, she is skilled in creating tasty meals that are nutrient-dense and high in fiber. The cooking classes have included restaurant-style bowls, a healthier take on meatless burgers (black bean & quinoa burgers), quick breakfast tacos and an easy-to-make Thai peanut slaw.

However, COVID-19 presented a challenge because people were no longer able to gather. Wendy moved the classes to the Free Clinic’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Since the move to virtual, the classes have covered topics like how to cook what’s in your pantry, how to stay healthy and regular during quarantine, and quarantine comfort foods like chicken and wild rice soup. Wendy has also visited the food pantry to include recipes to use the same items being distributed that day in the drive-through pantry.

Eventually the free cooking classes will resume at the Free Clinic’s Health Education Center in St. Petersburg. Until then, watch the classes on the Free Clinic’s YouTube channel or on its Facebook page.