March 28, 2007 | By: Laura Skillman

Tammy Duncan and daughter Emily were busy cooking up enough meat loaf pizzas for 16 people, or four families of four. Other families were making taco soup, tortilla pie and meatballs.

The families are part of a local food club that was the idea of Christy Ramey, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s family and consumer science agent in Edmonson County.

“This has kind of been a goal of mine,” she said. “All year I’ve been promoting family meals mainly because they are so beneficial. Not only do you teach manners, conversation skills and communication, but you also form bonds. So we are promoting turning off the TV, talking to each other and actually building those resilient factors you need in order to make good decisions. This is considered a protective factor and the more protective factors we have the more likely we are to resist negative behaviors including drugs and alcohol.”

The club consists of four families that get together monthly to prepare meals for each other. Each family prepares a different recipe times four so that when they leave, they take home four different quick, healthy meals that they can put in their freezer and pull out later when they can eat together as a family.

Emily Duncan, 15, said she enjoys cooking and the time spent with her mother. With her band schedule and a younger brother who’s in sports, they stay on the go so they aren’t in the kitchen together a lot. But the family tries to have meals together as often as possible, said Emily and her mother.

“It (the cooking club) was something new and exciting – something we can do together and it’s not very costly,” Tammy Duncan said. “(Emily) learns a little bit more about cooking and maybe I’ll learn a thing or two, too.”

Ramey received a grant from the local board of the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy to help fund the cost of the supplies needed for the kitchen. The club uses the family and consumer science kitchen at Edmonson County High School. Some of the food cost is coming from the grant, but most of it is coming from the food stamp program. The families will eventually pay for the food themselves and they are trying to keep costs under $20 for a family of four. Ramey and other extension staff do all the food shopping and preparation work, then the families use a recipe and put the meal together.

“The last time we met it took us 45 minutes to make 64 meals,” Ramey said. “It was pretty exciting.” 

Ramey also uses a curriculum called Guiding Good Choices as part of each month’s meeting. The program has the endorsement of the local drug abuse prevention and healthy communities coalitions, she said. 

“The first time we met, the families were thrilled because there was the bonding going on with the teenagers and the parents,” she said. “It’s something that doesn’t happen at home when you have distractions such as TV and video games and music.” 

Ruth Parker is a member of the cooking club and said she is enjoying sharing the experience with her daughter. 

“I was looking for a little variety,” she said. “The one thing I hate the most is coming up with a dinner idea every night. We do mealtimes together every night. It’s one time we can all sit down and talk and see how our days went before it gets crazy again. It makes a big difference and everybody likes it. I’m for anything a family can do together.”

While this club is limited to four families because of kitchen space, Ramey said there’s nothing stopping families, friends, church groups and other organizations from having their own meal clubs. Extension can help provide the shopping lists, measurements and other resources for those who are interested.


Christy Ramey, 270-597-3628