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Participants’ eating habits – and health – have improved thanks to nutrition class at Cross Lutheran Church, Milwaukee


Diane Currie (top left), Joella Holloway, Bernadette Williams (bottom left) and Yvette Smith enjoy coming to the bi-weekly classes for the lessons and the companionship. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz, WNOV The Voice)

Since he began taking a nutrition class at Cross Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Henry Fuller has made positive changes in his lifestyle.  He eats more fresh fruits and vegetables, checks food labels, and eats healthier portion sizes.

“Before, I didn’t really consider what I ate,” he said. “If it was something I liked, I ate it. Through the class, I’m more cognizant of what I take in.”

As a result, Henry feels better. “I’m less lethargic,” he said. “When I wake up, I’m not so groggy. I have more energy, so the class has definitely benefitted me.”

As part of the active living portion of the class, Linda Radder leads the group in a series of exercises. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz, WNOV The Voice)

Henry learned about the class from the instructor, Linda Radder, an Advocate Aurora Faith Community Nurse who has served Cross over the past 17 years.

“I thought the class was a great idea,” he said. “So, I said, ‘Okay, let’s see what it’s all about.’ The class has been very informational.”

Each session includes a meal, this week Linda Radder prepared tortilla soup. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz, WNOV The Voice)

The nutrition class began as an initiative called HEALE– Healthy Eating and Active Living Environment, which was a collaboration of several neighborhood organizations brought together by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to help residents in the 53205-zip code learn how to eat healthier and exercise more. Cross Lutheran is blessed to continue this work with funding from ACS and the Kohl’s Healthy Family program.

The class meets twice a month and includes an educational component, meal, exercise, and resources.

Linda Radder breaks down the tortilla soup recipe; her goal is to have participants help prepare the meals. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz, WNOV The Voice)

Among the topics covered so far: how to eat well, even when on a budget, the importance of exercising, and how eating less sodium, carbohydrates and sugar can improve health – and even help prevent cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic diseases.

Yvett Smith said the class has motivated her to eat better. “I used to overeat when I got upset,” she said. “Now, I’ve learned other ways to deal with stress. I’ve also learned not to eat too late in the day. And if I do, I make a salad or eat something light.”

Program participants learn about nutrition and how to manage their health through diet and exercise. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz, WNOV The Voice)

After talking about a health topic, class participants gather to enjoy a nutritious meal that Linda prepared. Participants then receive the recipe and a grocery gift card, so they can make the meal at home.

“It has been gratifying to see how the class has helped participants change their eating habits and improve their health,” Linda said.  “One of the participants has lost quite a bit of weight and was able to reduce her diabetic medication and blood pressure medication. Another participant went to the doctor for the first time in many years.”

“We are so grateful for the funding from Kohl’s and the American Cancer Society, which makes this class a reality,” Linda added. “Not only has the class been good for our physical health, but it has  been good for our mental health, as well. The social isolation we all experienced during COVID was reduced by our participation in class and our mental health was improved as we cared for ourselves and each other.”

A joint project of Advocate Health Care & the OCEAN-HP at the University of Illinois at Chicago.