Jennifer Coalwell at UC-Veg cooking class

Jennifer Coalwell prepares a meal at the UC-Veg Plant-Slant cooking class on Feb. 5 at the Seventh-Day Adventist Better Living Center on Garden Valley Boulevard in Roseburg.

Feb. 5 marked the start of a series of Blue Zones Project Umpqua’s Plant-Slant cooking classes and the launch of Potluck Moais.

Based on longevity hotspots around the world where people are living the longest, Blue Zones Project provides programming to help community members incorporate practices that will help them live longer and better.

Centenarians in the original Blue Zones eat mostly a plant-based diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, often using food grown in their own gardens, while also maintaining strong social networks that encourage healthy behaviors.

Cooking classes like the one that took place on Feb. 5 help participants learn how to incorporate more plant-based dishes into their meals and also give them an opportunity to continue the practice through joining small groups called Moais.

Moais will meet once a week for a total of 10 weeks while sharing a Plant-Slant meal.

Blue Zones Project Umpqua partnered with a local organization, Umpqua Community Veg Education Group (UC-VEG) for the cooking class. Providing free nutrition education programming for over seven years around the county, UC-VEG aims to support community members in healthy lifestyle behaviors, like incorporating more plant-based foods into their meals.

“We are so lucky to have free resources like Blue Zones Project and UC-VEG in our community,” said Mike Mallinson, a former chef who prepared Blue Zones Chili for the first class in his role as a cooking demonstrator. “When I moved to Sutherlin, I was thrilled to learn that there are already established groups providing programs to help people live healthier lives.”

More than 90 people from around the county registered for the class, which was held at the Better Living Center, part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church complex in Roseburg. People came from as far as Canyonville to learn how to make healthy and tasty plant-based recipes.

Four volunteer cooking demonstrators prepared samples of Blue Zones recipes. Husband and wife demonstration team Paul and Allison Whitworth showed people how to make a Tex-Mex Bowl, a recipe they say is a staple in their weekly routine.

Cooking demonstrator, blogger and local food enthusiast Jennifer Coalwell told participants how she has transitioned toward a Blue Zones style diet.

“I eat about 95 percent plant-based now, getting most of my produce every Saturday at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market. Much of the meat I used to consume has been replaced by delicious beans, greens, fruits and vegetables.”

Jennifer demonstrated an Ikarian longevity stew that she had previously cooked a dozen times. Jennifer was also one of several dozen attendees who chose to join one of the first four Potluck Moais that launched in our community at the conclusion of the cooking class.

These small groups will meet once a week over the next 10 weeks and enjoy plant-based dishes while forming new friendships around healthy behavior.

John Dimof, organization lead for Blue Zones Project Umpqua, hosted the first cooking class.

He told participants, “Our county consistently places low in comparison to other counties in Oregon for our health rankings. Contrast that with Blue Zones around the world where people are living to age 100, about 10 years more than we are here, and with hardly any chronic illness.

While we’ll never be an Okinawa, Japan, here in Roseburg, with Blue Zones Project-Umpqua, we’re happy to be able to provide community members opportunities to make healthy choices at our worksites, at restaurants and grocery stores, at our faith-based organizations, at schools and of course, right at home in our own kitchens.”

Cooking classes and Potluck Moais will be provided regularly by Blue Zones Project Umpqua in partnership with community organizations.

Help make the Umpqua Valley an even better place to live, work, learn and play.

To learn more about the cooking classes and other Blue Zones Project programming, check out the Blue Zones Project-Umpqua Facebook page, email, or call (541) 670-2305.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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