This Q&A was published in the June issue of Portland Monthly.
Julie Briley, ND, co-founder of The National College of Naturopathic Medicine’s new Food as Medicine Institute, believes everyone should know how to cook healthy, affordable meals from scratch. We talked to Briley about the institute’s expanding series of hands-on cooking classes—which she teaches at NCNM, at OMSI, and even in prisons
What’s the idea behind Food as Medicine Everyday (FAME) classes?
It’s about creating a healthy relationship with food and eating well. We teach participants about whole foods versus processed foods. What’s a fat and a carb? How do you read food labels, what’s the deal with sugar and artificial sweeteners?
Where are the classes?
It’s different every quarter, but currently, we’re teaching two at Charlee’s Kitchen (on the NCNM campus), one at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in North Portland, and one in Banks, Oregon, which is sponsored by Jim’s Thriftway. We’re also teaching a class at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, the women’s prison down in Wilsonville.
Wow. I bet the prisoners love this class.
They’re thrilled to have exposure to vegetables. One woman was like, “I saw a picture of kale in a magazine but I’ve never seen it in real life till now.” There’s a huge waiting list for the class. We have 12 students and we had 75 sign up for it. It’s high stakes for them: they’ve been gaining weight while they’re in prison. And many don’t remember how to shop or cook. A lot of them have diabetes or their husbands or partners at home have diabetes. We thought we’re giving them tools for when they leave, but what we found is that a lot of these women are able to make some changes while they’re incarcerated. They can decrease the amount of sugar they’re putting in their food, avoid artificial sweeteners. We also take them to the Canteen and go over the list to show them how to choose better options. Now they’ll buy the brown rice instead of the white rice.
You’ve also been teaching a seasonal cooking class, Better Bites, at OMSI. It’s me and a chef. We’ll have a topic—in the past it’s been Food for Fitness or Winter Wellness—and the chef will demo each course while I talk about the nutritional benefits. We’ve had Gregory Gourdet from Departures and Tressa Yellig from Salt, Fire, and Time.
You and Dr. Courtney Jackson are co-writing a book. Tell me more.
It’s based on the FAME curriculum. The first half is nutrition information, and in the back are all the recipes we’ve used in the class. NCMN Press is publishing it and we’re hoping it’s out by fall.
Sign up for a 12-week long FAME class at Charlee’s Kitchen ($219 per person; $389 for couples) Each 90-minute class ends with a delicious, home-cooked meal.