ELLICOTTVILLE — A new nutrition program being offered this summer by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus County is designed to make healthy cooking second nature for parents and children.

Gayle Patterson, an educator in the Cooperative Extension’s Nutrition Program, is teaching a six-week cooking class for moms and a child at four libraries around the county.

The first session was held Monday morning at 10:30 at the Salamanca Public Library, Patterson said. Other sessions are Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Machias Public Library, Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Portville Free Library and Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Blount Library in Franklinville.

Patterson said the program will teach moms and others involved in planning and preparing family meals how to involve children in preparing healthy meals.

“Find some sort of task they can help with,” she said. “There are many ways to involve kids.”

What is comes down to, Patterson said, is helping parents help children develop healthy parents. There are many ways to reach out and help build healthy eating habits.

Patterson said after seeing the county’s low health standings compared to other New York counties, she spoke with Cattaraugus County Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins at a recent Healthy Living Consortium meeting to see what she could do to help.

“It’s a six-week program of an hour to an hour and a half, focusing on a major food group each week,” Patterson said. “It includes activities of interest to the children.”

Patterson said the program is aimed at helping families create “an all around healthy lifestyle.” It’s limited to 10 adults and one child each.

For example, Monday’s project at the Salamanca Public Library featured cream cheese and fruit on an English muffin. It’s called fruit pizza, Patterson said.

“It sparks interest in the child in making healthy choices” and participating in planning meals, Patterson said.

Another exercise involves making spaghetti then discussing what can be added to make it more healthy, she said.

Next year Patterson hopes to expand the number of library hosts.

Anyone interested in the program or other nutrition programs offered by Cooperative Extension contact Patterson at 699-2377, ext. 109. The times and days of the programs will remain the same.

Patterson, who is in her third year with the Cooperative Extension Nutrition Program, spread the word about healthy living whenever she can.

She’s providing healthy snacks and leading a discussion on healthy eating at the Ellicottville Library’s Tech Tuesday Program.

The Nutrition Program offers another program through Eat Smart NY that. Program staff assist shoppers at the grocery store in ways designed to promote healthy food purchases.

Next year Patterson said the program is looking to include another program combining Yoga and nutrition. It will probably start with 4-H families before expanding to the general public.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)