By CHELSEA FLEISCHMAN
Things appeared to be shutdown at the Market House on Monday evening as just a few cars sat in the wrap-around parking lot.
Inside, Market House Master Alice Sjolander stood over the cash register, assessing the day’s sales.
But at the bakery, Save Room for Dessert, located just inside the main doors, 11 people gathered around the center countertop, squeezed between the showcases typically filled with delectable treats.
Local farmer Linda Bookamer was teaching them how to make mozzarella cheese from raw milk.
The lesson was part of this year’s cooking classes sponsored by the Market House and Project O.N.E. (Offering Nutrition for Everyone), a nonprofit started by Sjolander and Ellie Davies, whose family funds the Davies service program at Allegheny.
Sjolander said that she and Davies came up with the nonprofit five years ago after discussing local senior citizens’ physical inability to get to the Market House for the farmer’s market and fresh produce.
“So we kind of brainstormed, ‘well how can we get these vegetables to these seniors?’ and that’s when we came up with the idea of Project O.N.E.,” she said. “Ellie is the one that came up with the name.”
A community supported agriculture system (CSA) was put into effect.
Adrienne Nelson, ’13, is the site’s current Davies Community Service Leader. This is her second term at the Market House.
She spent the summer traveling from a farm near Cochranton, Penn. to pickup produce baskets and then deliver them to senior citizens’ private homes or the Holland Towers Retirement Homes.
The CSA produces baskets for senior citizens that cost $6, a low price subsidized by other community members that pay $20 per week’s basket.
Sjolander said that the cooking classes began three years ago under Davies Community Service Leader Erin Sweeny, class of 2010. When the Cookie Lady bakery left the Market House last year, the kitchen space was lost and classes discontinued.
Because Save Room for Dessert supports Project O.N.E. and is closed on Mondays, the classes were brought back in July as a fundraiser for other project programs.
Each class costs $20 with dinner provided and features volunteer instructors. Monday night’s teacher Linda Bookamer hosts several dairy classes for adults and children at her family’s farm.
According to their website, adult classes feature how to make products such as butter, yogurt, or cream cheese from cream, skim and whole milk. For kids, she offers classes on the science behind dairy and how cheese is made.
Bookamer said that she heard about the Project O.N.E. classes from another Market House employee that attended one of her farm’s cheese-making classes.
As a member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Bookamer wanted to support the cause and volunteered to teach a class.
“Promoting agriculture is something that we’re very active in and we feel as farmers that Market House promotes us so I was shocked when I heard (about the class) and said I really want to help in this in any way that I can,” she said.
Sjolander said that Communications Arts professor Ishita Sinha Roy taught a course on Indian cuisine in August.
“I learned a lot from her,” Sjolanda said. “She’s just absolutely incredible.”
Next Monday night’s Moroccan class will be taught by Allegheny librarian Cynthia Burton.
Aside from Nelson, no other Allegheny students were present at Monday night’s class. Nelson said that there have been students at past classes but that the cost is a bit much for a college budget.
“It’s definitely worth considering how can I make this program more available to people who want to have access to it or not necessarily who want to have access to it but I mean it should just be there,” she said. “It shouldn’t be limited by certain things like price but we need to raise money.”
Nelson said that they’re keeping student-based activities on the radar, such as the possibility of a cooking-in-your-dorm kind of class.
The classes have had a 10-person cap because of the limited room at the bakery but Sjolander said that they are trying to fill 15 spaces for the next Moroccan class. Nine of the spaces have already been filled.
“This is the best it’s been in a few years,” Sjolander said. “People are really learning a lot…. I think it’s going to be extremely successful this year.”
Sjolander said that they’re also thinking of ways to make the program even more accessible. Ellie’s idea for the class was to reach not only senior citizens but also people in the lower socioeconomic groups that are interested in cooking their own foods using fresh produce.
Sjolander said they’ve been discussing the possibility of a mobile farmer’s market that travels to local subsidized housing.
“We just want to expand it to get the word as far and wide as we can to let people know that you can cook healthful foods that really taste good,” she said.