Home Economics for the New Millennium:
Making Food and Making Friends at Mary Jane’s Cooking School
Mary Jane’s Cooking School, Inc. provides education on nutritional home cooking and homemaking in harmony with individual, community and cultural traditions, with respect and care for the environment. Mission Statement.
In the city of Winnipeg when people see the sign ‘Mary Jane’s Cooking School” they know that something is different about the unassuming two storey house near the corner of Portage Avenue and Arlington Street. There are people going in and coming out who represent a wide range of ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds. Often carrying small environmentally friendly or recycled containers of various sizes and tantalizing aromas, the women, men and youth leaving Mary Jane’s Cooking School may be a little tired but they are invariably smiling after what has often been a long day of work followed by classes in nutritional home cooking at the school. Students return home with the skills and knowledge of how to prepare a healthful meal, a new dish or an old favourite, for themselves or to share with their friends or family.
The concept of sharing has always been at the heart of the school, conceived through the combined understandings of four women committed to promoting health in the home and in the environment through the selection and preparation of nutritious food. They included a dietitian, a community anti-poverty activist, and a community nutritionist, Mary Jane Eason, whose personal history was rooted in the rural landscape of good home cooking and respect for the values of responsibility to the family, the community, and the natural environment.
Mary Jane’s Cooking School was launched in the early 1990’s. Shortly afterwards, the school transformed to a non-profit organization, with Mary Jane as Program Director working through community outreach with board members to bring a curriculum of hands-on cooking classes and nutritional learning for people of all ages and interests. Additional volunteers soon joined the group and by 1998 the school had earned the status of a Registered Charity by the Government of Canada.
In an age of increasing immigration and refugee settlement the school has been playing an even more important role in the community. While supporting newcomers’ efforts to meet the challenges of resettlement and the making of a home, the school has been enriched by bringing together a range of participants whose cultures have brought new depth to the programs being offered every year.
Incorporating awareness and respect for the home cooking and nutritional traditions of all Manitobans Mary Jane’s Cooking School helps participants come together in ways that promote personal, family and community well-being. It’s all about “making food and making friends”, about caring for one another and for the Earth as Mary Jane’s Cooking School continues again this year to teaching one class at a time.