Some Valley families have spent the last month learning how to cook healthy meals and more about nutrition through a free program offered by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley.

The program held at the Northumberland church is called Nutrition Links, offered through the Penn State extension. Nutrition Links provides research-based nutrition education to help people and families with limited resources enhance their nutrition, increase their physical activity and develop life skills needed for self-sufficiency and better health. According to the Penn State Extention, “classes include hands-on activities and cooking demonstrations to reinforce the learning process. Nutrition Links is federally funded and supported by local resources/dollars. Funds come from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), known in PA as PA TRACKS.”

The free class is available to families with a child under the age of 19 who meet income guidelines for WIC, 185 percent of the poverty level.

Ten lessons are included over five sessions, which conclude Wednesday night. In the most recent class, attendees used vegetable shortening to demonstrate the fat content in the different kinds of milk. They also selected among juices and sodas, estimating the amount of sugar that the drink would contain.

“I love doing this. I make small changes in people’s lives so they can be healthier,” said instructor Cyndi Clayton, the session teach from Penn State Extension for Union, Snyder, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties.

Parents that attend all five sessions will receive a free skillet to help them provide nutritional meals for their families after the classes end.

“I wanted to come and learn new stuff,” said Monica Leitzel of Sunbury, who learned about the classes on Facebook. She learned that you need to “wash fruits and vegetables with a scrub brush.”

She brought her son and nephew for the meal offered during the class. Leitzel has also been encouraging others to attend. “I’ve been trying to get people to come,” she said. “I’ve been telling them you learn stuff.”

Sam Geise, of the Unitarian Church, said the church has hosted the classes for several years and is always amazed by what people learn.

“It’s really excellent,” he said. “I’ve watched students come in and it’s amazing what some people don’t know.”