July 20, 2016
Helen McPhaden has been working with the Indigenous community for over 35 years. Her organization, the Stardale Women’s Group, offers a diverse range of services aimed at empowering and educating Indigenous women and girls.
“I’m from Saskatchewan where there is nearly double the number of reserves that there are here in Alberta,” Helen says. “My parents were involved with the Indigenous community while I was growing up, so it was very natural for me to get involved.”
The Centre opened its doors in Melfort, Saskatchewan in 1998 and has since expanded to provide outreach to Southern Alberta.
“Stardale activities provide our girls with a preview of their lives-to-come, so they can actively imagine themselves in a positive and fulfilling role in the young adult lives they will soon be living,” Helen says. “Living in poverty can be a constant struggle; however, our various programs enable Indigenous girls to build relationships with positive role models, overcome at-risk behaviours, nurture self-development, and improved their overall well-being.”
Recently, Stardale teamed up with the Co-op Community Foundation for a four-part cooking workshop designed to teach the girls about cooking techniques, healthy meal options, and nutritional information.
“These are at-risk girls, that in many cases, live below the poverty line and don’t have the opportunity to learn certain skills when it comes to cooking and healthy eating,” Helen explains.
Four of Co-op’s Fresh to Go chefs each led a group of girls through classes that consisted of breakfast, lunch, dinner and the ‘Great Cook Off’.
Breakfast included omelets, poached eggs, egg salad, hashbrowns and French toast. For lunch they learned how to make a variety of wraps, bean salad and tuna sandwiches. Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, and Caesar salad. And for the Great Cook Off the teams made pizza, Caesar salad with grilled chicken, beef tacos and mini sausage sliders.
“I wanted to develop a cooking program that would utilize our Fresh to Go chefs,” says Laura Brown, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Calgary Co-op. “We have an amazing group of cooking professionals who are very community minded and this program really aligned with our strategic priority of helping to educate our community on affordable and nutritious food options.”
“The chefs were very big-hearted individuals, who worked intimately with each group of girls in the community kitchen; they were all extremely well-trained and professional,” Helen adds.
The girls range in age from 10-17 years old. Helen knew the program would be a hit, as they all love to cook.
“It was wonderful to collaborate with Calgary Co-op and develop a project that was unique, beneficial and of interest to the young girls. I always say it’s the ‘breaking of bread’ when people are cooking and eating together – they talk, they share, they laugh, and everyone has fun.”
To find out more about the Stardale Women’s Group please visit www.stardale.org
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