Since 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) has teamed up with the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington to connect over 1,300 DC area residents to Simple Cooking with Heart. The curriculum teaches participants cooking skills and instills confidence in the kitchen through the lens of improving heart health with better nutrition at little to no cost to participants. Due to the pandemic, the classes have evolved to a virtual model and also are now offered throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland. Classes are also taught in English and Spanish.
The virtual courses use AHA guidelines-based heart-healthy recipes and emphasize the critical importance of small lifestyle changes to incorporate more fruits and vegetables, substitute sugary beverages for water, healthy cooking on a budget and ways to engage children in healthy eating. In addition to improving their health, participants also saw improvements in their children’s health. Many shared their children were at an increased risk for developing diabetes and obesity and by getting them involved in the Simple Cooking with Heart classes, they became more open to trying new foods and learned skills to live a long and healthy life.