Stacie Archer knows all too well how stressful it can be to cook healthy meals for an entire family on a tight budget. It is an immeasurable amount of pressure that Archer – a single mom of three – never wanted anyone else to feel, especially other families struggling to make ends meet.
It was the ultimate inspiration behind her non-profit organization, Get Cooking, in which she educates hundreds of low-income families about how to shop for healthy food and create meals for $20 or less.
Archer has long been a firm believer that a healthy home-cooked dinner is vital for the development of children. These dinners keep them sharper at school the next day, help to foster a good relationship between family members and help cut down on child obesity, Archer told FOX Business.
According to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, at least three frequent family meals per week decreased the likelihood of children being overweight by 12%. It was also found to reduce the likelihood of unhealthy food intake and eating disorders in children by 20% and 35%, respectively.
In 2016, Archer's mission to help families living on a tight budget began when she launched a food blog – Seven Plates – that was fueled with cooking tips and recipes. Each recipe was big enough for a family of four and cost no more than $20.
"A lot of these families had the perception that it's too expensive to cook healthy and…it is not going to taste good," Archer said, adding that they were just too accustomed to the sodium and the preservatives within frozen meals.
Her goal was to debunk the notions. However, after her blog gained a ton of traction, she set her sights on making an even bigger impact. She teamed up with some award-winning chefs to do just that.
Today, Archer co-hosts a virtual interactive cooking class for families living in subsidized housing in Miami and Orlando, Florida. The class is twice a month; one is dedicated specifically for families in Verde Gardens, a 145-unit townhome community in Miami for formerly homeless residents.
The other is for families living within Orlando's poorest neighborhoods, Parramore.
Roughly two hours before class begins, around 3 p.m., meal kits, supplied and distributed by Second Harvest Food Pantry, are sent straight to their front door with all the supplies needed to make the recipe.
They have the stuff they need, so there are no excuses, Archer laughed as she spoke with Fox Business.
"You've got your food. We're going to show you how to do it," Archer said.
At exactly 5 p.m. Archer begins, welcoming about 40 families each time. The parents and children watch intently as she goes through the process step by step. If questions arise, and they often do, she never hesitates to re-explain a step.
It kicks off deliberately at 5 p.m. every time, Archer said, so they can ensure the kids are home from school and can partake in the actual preparation too.
"It’s so gratifying to be let into the homes of these families as we cook together. I love to see the kids cutting vegetables side by side with their moms," she said.
The best part for Archer is that these families are not going to a multipurpose room and watching a demo. Rather, they are getting the opportunity to gain the confidence to use their own kitchen, Archer explained, adding that many of them have never used an oven or even a frying pan before.
Not only is she teaching them why it is important to get nutritious foods, but how to shop for them on a budget.
"They now know how to shop the ingredients because they've touched it, they've seen it, and they trust that they can do it for $20 or less," Archer said.
The hope is that the families take the recipes they have learned and their newly found skills, and they use their money wisely the next time they go grocery shopping.
The idea is "we gave you a fish, now it's your turn to go fishing," she said.