YWCA partners with city, hosts gardening classes to begin Tuesday

Bailey Williams, Assistant City Editor

Evanston’s Women Out Walking program is partnering with YWCA Evanston/North Shore to host gardening classes starting Tuesday in an attempt to teach women the “nutritional benefits and pleasure of eating freshly grown vegetables,” according to the YWCA.

“Affordable healthy cooking is going to be key to assisting all people but particularly low-income individuals,” said Cece Lobin,  YWCA women’s empowerment program coordinator.

The two programs are collaborating to hold “garden-to-table classes,” during which participants will have the chance not only to learn about gardening but also to make use of what they grow to live healthier lives. YWCA volunteer Alex Piper came up with the idea for these classes, which began last year.

The YWCA is an organization that has programs focusing on empowering women and eliminating racism, while the WOW program is a city program focusing on encouraging women to live healthier.

Piper has been volunteering for almost four years, and was using the garden at the YWCA in part to have a cooking class once a week with women to teach them about low-cost nutritional meals they could prepare for themselves, she said. The focus of the garden-to-table classes is to reach out to the community and “expand the beauty of growing and preparing,” Piper said.

The YWCA garden helps residents of the organization’s domestic violence shelter learn about “healthy affordable cooking,” Lobin told The Daily. The YWCA shelter has 32 beds where women and children can stay for up to 90 days.

“I found a personal satisfaction when I first started working with the women at the domestic violence shelter,” Piper said.

Piper went on to say that there was a misconception among some people that cooking is a hassle that takes a lot of time, so “sharing the magic and the simplicity” of cooking was something she wanted to do.

Moving forward, Piper said she “would like to expand to different existing groups in Evanston.” Both Piper and Lobin spoke of pre-existing partnerships already in the works. Lobin said she wanted her organization to do a walk with WOW to two female-owned businesses in Evanston.

Jessyca Dudley, a public health educator who manages WOW, said the program partners with many Evanston organizations and has events lasting through June. For all six years of WOW’s existence, YWCA has been a partner, Dudley said.

“Partnerships with local business and organizations is key to the success of the WOW program as it provides participants with local options to create and maintain healthy lifestyles,” Dudley said in an email.

The garden classes initially were scheduled to begin Thursday, but the weather caused Piper to push the date back to Tuesday. She said that despite the change in time, the rest of the program should go according to schedule. Lobin said the program has tended to draw female participants.

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