LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

Local organizations host free cooking demonstrations using food commonly found at local food pantries to show people how to use the items to make nutritious meals.

Food pantries help hundreds of people put food on the table every day. Recipients get fresh produce, dairy products and other necessities. While they are grateful for it, they are not always sure how to turn it into a healthy meal. The free cooking demonstrations allow people to learn new and creative ways to turn ordinary meals into healthier ones.

Donna Hofer is a mother of two and attended the event Wednesday morning.

“They asked me a lot of questions, which is good. Like ‘Do you get these things on Wafers?’ I said, ‘Yes you do,’” said Hofer.

Hofer gets her food from local food pantries and on Wednesday she got to learn how to cook with the food she commonly picks up, such as broccoli, carrots and mushrooms.

“We’re working with Wafer so that we know what types of things they get throughout the year. We try to work off of that and see what kind of recipes we can tie together with the things they are provided,” said Michelle Lewis, a student at Western Technical College in La Crosse.

Lewis made chili for everyone to try and says minimalism is the No. 1 ingredient.

“We try to keep it really simple so it doesn’t take very long and it doesn’t take that many steps. It’s a good home-cooked meal and it’s healthier,” said Lewis.

“A lot of times, the food that you get from the food pantry is high in sodium, very fatty and not very nutritious for you. So the idea is to incorporate fruits and vegetable along with these products and make a healthier product for people to eat,” said Rod Tisthammer, organizer of the event.

Tisthammer said the event helps people learn how to use everything they get from the pantry so that nothing ends up in the trash.

“It gives people an idea of what they can do. People sometimes aren’t too creative when it comes to making meals or food,” said Tisthammer.

Cooking demonstrations are held every month, but organizers hope to offer them twice a month so that they can focus on specific areas, such as how to cook for someone who has diabetes or other dietary needs.