Cooking course improves independent life skills


Tasty rewards for participants, family and friends
Ryan Rogers

Denise Cheung, a participant in cooking classes run by the Still Creek Education Centre (SCEC), would pack a frozen dinner for lunch when she first signed up two years ago.

Now that Denise has developed some cooking skills, she packs her own homemade lunches instead.

The SCEC is a department within the social and economic inclusion day services area at BACI, offering leisure and life skills classes.

Melanie Ratard runs the Still Creek Education Centre and has made significant changes to the cooking and baking courses to encourage independent cooking.

“The class used to be set up in such a way as folks would just come in and everyone would participate in doing just a piece of one of the recipes, and we’d have a finished product at the end,” says Melanie.

She adopted a new process that uses pictures and minimal words to describe each step of a recipe.

For example, one picture would show a bowl and a hand holding a spoon with motion lines indicating “to stir.”

She also uses colour-coding in the pictures and on the equipment to minimize confusion. For example, a one-quarter measuring cup might have a red circle on it in the picture as well as on the cup.

Melanie says the results are great, and participants are all having similar outcomes. This indicates that the recipes are being understood clearly and the directions are clear without being hindered by a lot of words.

She says brownies and desserts are sometimes sold at a coffee-house social.

Denise cooking one of her favourite meals

Some participants are familiar with the recipes and don’t require Melanie’s supervision during the class.

“I know they can pretty much grab the recipe when the class starts and go to it, without any direction from me,” she says.

The baking course is fun because of the chemistry involved, but Melanie says the cooking course is most important.

“The people we support who are living independently, I know that a lot of them rely on frozen dinners and stuff that comes out of a can because they don’t have the skills to be cooking at home,” says Melanie.

Courses that teach how to prepare a fresh and healthy meal are important for nutrition.

Melanie would like to expand the repertoire of recipes moving forward.

Denise, who used to bring a frozen dinner for lunch to the classes, now packs a homemade Greek pasta salad. She’s become so good at it now she makes a lunch for her mom and brother at home.

Other favourites include garden salads and chicken Caesar wraps, and especially nachos for watching the hockey game.

If you have a story you would like to share with the BACI Blast, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 29, or e-mail ryan(at)

If you have feedback on this story, please call the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 29, or e-mail ryan(at)


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