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Using food bank staples

Hinson is a dietitian who developed and teaches the classes, called "Pots and Plans."

Every week, she brings a portable stove and groceries to senior housing complexes around the city, where she whips up meals that can be made simply and talks about nutrition, fiber, fat and salt.

Recipes use easy-to-find ingredients and common food bank staples such as oats and beans. Dishes range from familiar standards, like spaghetti sauce (with three ingredients), to quinoa and whole wheat pasta.

Hinson cooks the dishes, and students taste every meal. She gives out recipes and bags of groceries with key ingredients. She also listens to the students' feedback.

"I've gotten some push-back on using fresh herbs [because they're expensive]," Hinson said. "They'll say, 'We can't afford avocados. Why are you showing us avocados?' "

Another participant, Kathe Martin, 66, found the classes a great way to try new things to eat better, lose weight and help her partner eat more vegetables.

"It's easy to fall into bad habits as you age," said Martin, a retired registered nurse in Seattle. But she didn't want to eat boring, bland health food.

"We want to make it tasty," she said.

To host a Lifelong cooking class in a senior housing complex, call 206-328-8979. The free weekly classes can accommodate six to 30 students and run for six weeks. To volunteer to help with setup and food preparation for the classes, visit the volunteer section at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance website.

Vanessa Ho is a writer living in Seattle.

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