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Agency to teach parents of Cleveland school kids the Urban Farm Diet

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A series of classes to teach parents of Cleveland public school students how to prepare healthy and affordable meals will begin next month on the city's East Side.

Parents will learn the "Urban Farm Diet" in a four-session class that will include tips on how to purchase fresh products on a low budget and urban gardening.

The education program is aimed to give residents alternatives to fast-food restaurants and snacks readily available from corner stores that contribute to chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

The classes, part of the school district's Parent University, will be at the CornUcopia Place Kitchen beginning Thursday, April 18. There are still openings. The free classes will provide parents with skills to support student learning and achievement. The program also is designed to help adults navigate the education system and help them connect with families of other students, the school district said on its website.

The education programs are aimed to give residents alternatives to fast-food restaurants and snacks from corner stores that contribute to chronic diseases in the neighborhood such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other ailments.

The kitchen is a part of Burten, Bell, Carr Development Corp.'s fresh food production center that opened in Cleveland's Ward 5 last fall. The group has a five-year, $759,000 federal grant to improve people's access to fresh and healthy foods.

More than 200 people already have participated in about a dozen lifestyle programs at the center, said Sherita Mullins, a program manager with the agency. Classes have ranged from teaching teens how to prepare simple meals to exercise classes for senior citizens.

The facility also has the Bridgeport Cafe, a cold storage facility and a soon-to-be-in-operation food truck that will sell fresh produce to the elderly and those without transportation.

Mullins said more than 4,000 people have patronized the coffee and sandwich shop, and the numbers will go up as more people take advantage of programs there.

As part of the Urban Farm Diet program, parents will tour the Rid-All Green Partnership, an urban farm in the Kinsman neighborhood; learn the proper way to store produce; and how to look for locally grown produce. The participants also will learn how to get healthy, fresh foods cheaply -- a challenge for some residents because they live far from grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tim Tramble, executive director for Burten, Bell, Carr, said the group wants to attract more people from the surrounding area to its food programs.

"We are working on a cultural shift and that does not happen overnight," Tramble said. "The generations of today don't have the connection to the land that our great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers did. They had the essential skills of growing from the land and eating off the land."

Tramble said the food center has become a model for other community development corporations. He said representatives from Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit and other cities plan to implement similar programs.

To learn more about the Urban Farm Diet program, contact Burten, Bell and Carr Development Corp. at 216-341-1455.