Maine SNAP-Ed Cooking Tour at Hillside IGA – WFFJ-TV News –

January 15, 2017

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Cooking Matters at the Store Tour Held at Hillside IGA


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, January 18, 2017


    The Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP), in conjunction with the University of New England, Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Cary's Healthy You, recently provided a tour of Hillside IGA in Fort Fairfield to discuss healthy eating options as part of the Maine SNAP-Ed Cooking Matters program.

   “Today we're going to do a Cooking Matters at the Store tour,” said Katharine Putnam, Community Education Specialist for ACAP.  “We're going to go through the store, to each section of the store; produce, dairy, whole grains, frozen and we're going to talk about all of the healthy foods we can take. We're going to see how we can shop, cook and eat healthy on a budget.  That's our main goal here, today. 

   Putnam provided two tours of Hillside IGA on Tuesday, January 10.  She discussed how to shop for the most healthy food, how food pricing is structured and what to watch out for on food ingredients in order to choose the most nutritional food while maintaining a budget.

   The Cooking Matters programs are provided by the US Department of Agriculture, through the Maine Department of Human Services and administered by the University of New England through local community organizations.  Its goal is to provide participants with the knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices, as well as prepare healthy meals and snacks on a limited budget.

   “Fresh produce is obviously beautiful, it catches our eye, it's very fresh tasting and exciting to eat,” said Putnam.  “It's usually the most expensive but there are ways we can find it on sale and there are ways we can buy it so it's not so expensive, such as buying in bulk rather than by the piece.”  She says canned fruit is also a good alternative to fresh produce.  “Canned fruit is not necessarily bad, I know that everyone thinks that it is, but it's not.  They pack it at the peak of nutritional value, it has as much nutrients as fresh produce, and it's cheaper so you can buy more of it.”  She cautions food buyers to stay away from the canned fruit with sugar added, or packaged in syrup.  “You want to try to get the no sugar added, if you can.  If you can't find that, if you can find it in one hundred percent juice, that's your second best option.  When you get it in a heavy syrup or even a light syrup, it's going to have a lot of extra sugar.”

   “Frozen fruit is a good option.  It's cheaper than fresh produce, it's a little more expensive than our canned produce but some people prefer the taste of frozen.  They usually don't add sugar to it until you get to the syrups or sauces.”

   Putnam also cautions against purchasing processed canned or frozen vegetables with added sodium and says the best choices are either low, or no sodium added.

   One of the foods being marketed as “healthy” is yogurt due to the pro-biotics it contains, or the “good” bacteria the body needs for proper digestion of food.  However, Putnam cautions us to still be aware of what is added to the yogurt in the packaging process.  “The thing we want to watch out for in yogurt is not so much pro-biotics, it's more about how much sugar is in our yogurt.  Every time you pick up a yogurt, the biggest thing is you want to look at the back of the label.  We want to look at the sugar content.  Some yogurts have as much as 26 grams of sugar per serving, which is a ‘ton of sugar.’”

   Putnam also says to avoid artificial sweeteners because they can cause a person to actually gain weight, instead of losing it, due of the physiological effects that result from consuming them.

   When purchasing beef, she advises to stay with the leaner cuts of meat.  “The more fat there is, the worse it's going to be for you.  It does taste good. But, is worth it? It's not so much cost effective, either.  Because when you cook it, you cook off that fat and it's not edible.”

   Participants in the Cooking Matters tour visited the entire store with Putnam and in a group discussion format talked about their current food buying habits and how they could be improved. 

   The Maine SNAP-Ed uses evidence-based curricula and multi-level approaches to improve the likelihood that low-income families will have the knowledge and skills to be able to make healthier food and physical activity choices on a limited budget.

   For more information, contact Maine SNAP-Ed at (207) 221-4560 or


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