Cooking class educates girls and young women of Lee County on healthy living

Photo 1 - TOP- GiGi, Judith, Jasmine, Alexandria, Ashley BOTTOM- Alize, Brandy, Cassandra Golden

PACE Center for Girls of Lee County, Lee Memorial Health System, Culinary Solutions at LeeSar, and LeeSar Cooperative Services recently partnered to launch a new Health & Wellness Initiative that promotes healthy living through nutrition. The program recently offered a six-week cooking course for PACE students that teaches them how to plan, shop, and prepare healthy and affordable meals for themselves and their families, incorporating the “2Generation” approach to help support multiple generations and increase family health and sustainable thinking. The program recently culminated with a celebration dinner for the students and their families, prepared by the staff at Culinary Solutions at LeeSar.

Photo 6 - TOP-Cassandra Golden, Ashley, Yesenia, GiGi, Brandy, Alexandria, Chef Katie Halliesy BOTTOM - Alize, Judith

Throughout the six-week course, the PACE students learned how to prepare a new meal and were given the recipe and all ingredients needed to make the meals at home. As community partners, LeeSar Cooperative Services and Culinary Solutions at LeeSar has provided its facility, and Lee Memorial Health System has provided its chef, dietician and supplies. During the culmination dinner, girls received certificates of completion, chef’s hats, and a surprise gift, a fully stocked professional kitchen set including pots, pans and utensils.

Photo 2 - Heather Wayco, Chef Katie Hallisey, Alexandria, Cassandra Golden

PACE is a year-round school serving at-risk girls, ages 12-18, through a balanced emphasis on academics and counseling. PACE provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. The Health & Wellness Initiative program is part of PACE’s Transition Program, bringing together both current PACE students and young women who have completed the PACE program and transitioned back to school or on to higher education or employment. The Transition Program is designed to help girls stay engaged with PACE once they leave and supports PACE’s motto of “Once a PACE girl, always a PACE girl!”

For more information about PACE Center for Girls, or to learn more about how your business or organization can support local girls and young women, call PACE 239-425-2366 or visit www.pacecenter.org/locations/lee.

Photo 3 - Judith and PACE Executive Director Meg M. Geltner

About PACE Center for Girls of Lee County

PACE Center for Girls is a Florida-based, nonprofit organization and the only statewide prevention program for adolescent at-risk girls in the nation. The non-residential program targets the unique needs of girls, ages 12 to 18, facing challenges such as physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, foster care, neglect, death of a parent, family history of incarceration and declining grades. In the past year, the Lee County program provided 106 girls with education, counseling, training and advocacy, resulting in 96 percent of girls in the program having no involvement with juvenile justice within one year of leaving PACE, 93 percent improving their academic performance and 76 percent remaining in school or obtaining employment three years after leaving PACE. As a result, PACE reduces the significant long-term costs associated with teen pregnancy, substance use, unemployment and long-term economic dependency.