The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas on Monday received a $16,178 grant from the Blue and You Foundation which will be used to offer a series of cooking classes for families in Jefferson County.


According to a press release, the Blue and You Foundation, which was established by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield iin 2001 as a charitable foundation to promote better health in Arkansas awarded $3,467,872 in grants to 40 health improvement programs in Arkansas, including three in Pine Bluff.


In addition to the funds for the Arts and Science Center, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff received a $139,000 grant to fund the Strengthening Program, which seeks to provide enhanced clinical lab environments for more than 24 nursing students who attend UAPB. The funds will go to the purchase of clinical lab equipment and supplies.


Also, Southeast Arkansas College (SEARK) received a $7,700 grant for the school’s College Food Pantry which is providing assistance to food-insecure students and their families.


“Our grants this year went to programs throughout the state that address issues and needs that organizations have identified as important to their communities,” Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Blue and You Foundation said in the press release. “These include physical and mental health programs for all ages, opportunities to participate in exercise and good nutrition and building the future medical workforce that will care for all our citizens.”


According to the Arts and Science Center website, The funds will be used for the CrEATe Lab program where Faith Anaya and the staff of her cooking school Kids Cook! will provide their food expertise.


The program launches in January 2020 with a seven-week series for ages 10-17. The classes will be held 2-4 p.m. Saturdays: Jan. 18 and 25; Feb. 1, 15, and 22; March 7 and 21. The Jan. 18 class includes a mandatory student and parent orientation.


(There is a class limit of two children per family. The cost is $35 for the series. Half scholarships are available for those who qualify with the submission of a scholarship application.)


CrEATe Lab has three components: Cooking, gardening and shopping. Students are taught to independently prepare nutritious meals. Basic skills, such as how to properly wash, peel, chop and slice various food items and how to avoid illness from improper food preparation will be taught. A registered dietitian will also include provide nutrition workshops during the series.


The curriculum also includes a trip to the grocery store to learn about purchasing nutritious food on a budget, a trip to a garden to see where food comes from, and a community service component in which food will be prepared for a local food pantry.


ASC will also offer weeklong summer camp in July 2020 for kids, and one eight-week series September through November 2020 for families.


Jefferson County is one of the highest-ranking Arkansas Delta counties for obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Major contributors are the lack of physical activity and access to healthy food choices due to socioeconomic issues such as poverty and absence of infrastructure that supports a healthy lifestyle. In Pine Bluff alone, 54 percent of children live in a single-parent household with 38 percent of children living in poverty.


For more information about CrEATe Lab, contact ASC Public Programs Coordinator Shakeelah Rahmaan at 870-536-3375 or srahmaan@asc701.org.


Other agencies and organizations in Southeast Arkansas that received grant funding included:


Mainline Health Systems at Dermott which received $54,677 for a Diabetic Retinal Assessment Compliance program will increase the compliance rate of retinal exams by 50 percent within the diabetic population of Southeast Arkansas by purchasing seven RetinaVue machines.


Arkansas Rural Health Partnership Lake Village received $115,075 for a Youth Mental Health First Aid program that will train 30 individuals as instructors to improve youth access to mental and behavioral health resources in 12 south Arkansas Counties.


McGehee Hospital received $150,000 for the Expanding Chronic Care program which will deploy an expanded CCM team by hiring one nurse and one administrative assistant to serve 300 patients in Southeast Arkansas who have chronic health conditions.


University of Arkansas at Monticello received $150,000 for the Weevil Save AR Student program to enhance the UAM Simulation Laboratory by adding simulation equipment, laboratory furnishings, manikins and first-aid responder training equipment.