Vermont refugees get help with cooking skills
Anya Huneke, Winooski, VT – A cooking class in Vermont is targeting a new type of student. The class, which teaches nutritious cooking on a budget is filled this session with students who are new to the area, and to the country.

"We're quite new here- we're learning about American food- we don't know much about American food." Kamala Kuikel,  aBhutanese refugee resettled in Vermont.(info. and pic. source:

"We're quite new here- we're learning about American food- we don't know much about American food." Kamala Kuikel, a Bhutanese refugee resettled in Vermont.( source:

Kamala Kuikel has always liked to cook. But the 32 year-old refugee from Bhutan wants to improve and expand her skills in the kitchen.

To help her adjust to her new life in Burlington, Vermont.

Kamala: “We’re quite new here- we’re learning about American food- we don’t know much about American food.”

So Kuikel has enrolled in a class offered through the Vermont campaign to end childhood hunger, the University of Vermont, and the New England Culinary Institute- called ‘Cooking for Life’– which has, just recently, become a popular program for refugees who have resettled in Vermont.

Rebecca “We’ve seen a big boom in the refugee population- esp. in Chittenden Co.- and this is a great way to address that group.”

Many of the refugees in the class are from Bhutan, near India.

One of the exceptions is Paulina Angory- who moved here from Sudan. She’s a single mother caring for five children– who’s trying to hold onto her own culture while pleasing her kids, too.

Paulina: “Now most kids don’t want to eat their own food. If you cook vegetables, they don’t like it.”

Louise “Sometimes moms get confused about what’s good and what’s not good.”

‘Cooking for Life’ was created to provide
cooking and nutrition classes to low-income Vermonters.

But Hal Colston of ‘neighbor keepers’ – an anti-poverty organization – recruited a number of refugees for the program this session– seeing a distinct need within this population.

Hal: “Their biggest challenge is language – going to the grocery store, learning to read the food label- making a choice between products that are good for you and not good for you.”

One thing the refugee students don’t seem to need much education in is the value of fresh, healthy ingredients. As instructors in the program have found .. many are already accustomed to growing what they eat.”

Howard “We find the Bhutanese that come- eat a lot of whole foods, raw foods already.”

The students grow some of the ingredients they use- sharing responsibilities in the garden.

They also share with the class the culinary knowledge and values they came here with– making this an educational experience for everyone involved.


One Response

  1. It is interesting to know about the programs the refugees are involved in. food being an essential feature.

    It may sound very strange that many refugees from the developing world are vegetarians. More so with the refugees from Southern Bhutan.

    One of the most challenging landscapes in the planet was terraced a couple of hundred years ago by the Lhotsampas (The Southern Bhutanese). It became a hub of total organic farming and the fields and orchards are the invaluable assets to the country today.

    Food is very much respected in Bhutan and this is mainly because people have realized the difficulties in growing it and the its importance.

    Those who have crossed forty can be a real good resource to be tapped in terms of organic farming and whole food consumption. Southern Bhutan has been the basis of Bhutan’s happiness in terms of food, fruits and spices production. Try the Druk jams and juices from the orchards of Southern Bhutan. Plenty of land that needs bioengineering in the developed countries can be one of the projects the Bhutanese Refugees may be involved in. When the children go to school the parents can go organic farming.

    Besides food, fruit and spices growing, the Bhutanese Refugees are also good at raising other herbs that can be used in medicines. For example- I used to spend my Winter holidays with my friends from South during my school days. One of friends taught me how to make real good ink and bandages from a plant we call (khenpa sing) in the north and Tete pati in the south. The ink was good and the bandages soaked in the finely treated Khenpa sing juice is almost an instant cure for severe burns and cuts.

    They know how mushroom grows wild and how to propagate bamboos. The wotrh of orchids is known to the Bhutansese and that is why in the south you find the children trying to beautify the jungles with the multiplication of orchids. Honey is the result of all the flowers grown.

    These skills are developed over hundreds of years with extreme co-operation with mother nature which has taught the Bhutanese the value of whole and fresh foods.

    Every community from every part of the world has something useful to share. Massive industrialization kills the values gathered over centuries.

    What about the system of fermentation. No laboratories required. Many households know what makes good wine- the ferns.

    Maybe the are yet to learn shopping large markets of the developed world – they already know how to reach the best home produce to these markets. The need of the time is opportunity.

    When the employment in the cities is growing difficult and the importance of organically grown food is rising, a collaborative community farming system makes real sense.

    And this is it. Go green- less is good at times.

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