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Future Doctor Teaches Free Healthy Cooking Classes Using Ingredients From Pilsen Food Pantry

CHICAGO (CBS) -- "Eat Healthy." Easier said than done, right?

An Illinois medical student wants to make sure following that doctor's order is a breeze especially for people in low income communities. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory shares how the future doctor is swapping her stethoscope for a spatula.


Day after day, cart after cart leaves the Pilsen Food Pantry. Each is filled with nourishment and packed with potential that Sofia Yunez shares through recipes at her free cooking class. The second year University of Illinois Chicago medical student scans the shelves for what's in season and at a surplus each week.

"For example, we had like a lot of peaches that were coming through the pantry, so we tried doing something with peaches," said Yunez.

Leftover canned pork was transformed into tasty lettuce wraps recently.  Extra tilapia got rave reviews after Yunez's suggestion to oven-bake it.

A client told Yunez, "'They always like to eat fried fish but they actually enjoyed the recipe you gave us.' She explains her version had almost no oils but went heavy on seasoning.

The class promotes healthy eating by teaching pantry visitors how to use pantry items. Sometimes participants explore a new ingredient or learn a new skillset.

"The idea is that it's a little bit different than what people already know how to cook, and it's financially accessible and healthy," said Yunez.

It's a great recipe for volunteer Francisco Rivera, who is studying nutrition at college.

"Being able to teach people what I'm learning so far about nutrition in a community-based setting is almost like a perfect way to just immerse myself in what I want to keep doing," Rivera said.

All the sizzling and chopping by volunteers eventually caught the attention of a future cook walking by. The man who said he doesn't even know how to properly cut vegetables told Yunez he might come back next week. Guaranteed on the menu: something delicious.

The Pilsen Food Pantry Cooking runs from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays at 1850 S. Throop St. in Chicago. Sign up here.

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