SWFL firefighters take cooking classes to find foods that help fight cancer

Reporter: Claire Galt Writer: Jasmine Singletary
Published: Updated:

The Fort Myers Shores Fire Department has been taking cooking classes for the past six weeks.

Every recipe is plant-based and designed to boost energy and performance.

Paul Salyers, Firefighter said, “We’ve just noticed how much better we feel and you can just tell with the diet change it’s just overall better for you.”

It’s all a part of Chief Chris Dowaliby’s effort to introduce a healthier lifestyle approach.

Chief Chris Dowaliby, Fort Myers Shores Fire Department said, “The guys report that they’re not as sluggish as they used to be they’ve got more energy when they’re out they seem to recuperate faster after eating nutritionally.”

Instructors come in, show the guys a recipe, and then let them take a shot at it.

Trish Smith, a Nutritional Medicine Educator said, “We wanted to teach them how to add more vegetables or fruits, whole grains, and beans into a meal that maybe they would make already for the guys on the shift and they’ve been super receptive.”

But there is another reason why Fort Myers Shores brought in instructor Smith.

Certain foods help people fight cancer.

And firefighters are at risk of cancer more than the average person.

“Some cancers we have 100% greater chance of getting than the normal population,” Dowaliby said.

An example, mesothelioma is a cancer found in the lining around the lungs, stomach, and heart.

Firefighters are at a higher risk of esophageal cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, brain, prostate, colon cancers, and more.

Cancer-fighting foods include berries, seeds, and raw veggies.

“So maybe they help us with some cancer rates I mean that’s all we can hope,” Dowaliby said.

The Firefighter’s Cancer Support Network did a study and found firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with some form of cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying of cancer.

That’s what Fort Myers Shore Firefighters told WINK News.

“I think a lot of us are already bringing it home to our families and making those changes it’s not just here, we’re trying to do it every day,” Slayer said.

Smith said if you’re ready to make the jump into plant-based eating some of the first things you can do are eat more greens, raw and cooked, and make sure you get lots of fiber.

Below is a sample recipe the Fort Myers Shore Firefighters made.


路 20 rice paper wrappers

路 Tofu spears

路 1 red pepper, julienned

路 1 small cucumber, julienned

路 2 carrots, julienned

路 5 lettuce leaves, I used Cos

路 Avocado, sliced

路 handful of fresh cilantro


路 2 heaped tbsp all natural peanut (contains no sugar or salt) butter*

路 40 ml lime juice (from 1 lime)

路 90 ml water 路 1 tbsp / 15 ml tamari (for gluten free version) or soy sauce

路 1 garlic clove, pressed

路 2 tsp grated ginger

路 1-2 tsp hot chilli flakes


路 3 cups cooked rice (Brown is higher in fiber!!)

路 2 Tbsp vegan butter

路 4 Tbsp soy sauce

路 1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

路 1/2 Tbsp sugar

路 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)

路 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas

路 1/2 cup frozen or fresh carrots (finely chopped)

路 1/2 cup frozen or fresh shelled edamame

路 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional, as topping)

路 2 Tbsp green onions (optional, as topping)


1. First, cook the rice according to package instructions. You will need 3 cups of cooked white rice total. I prefer short-grain/sushi rice for this recipe and have tips and tricks in the blog post on how to cook rice, but any rice works. If using short grain/sushi rice it is 1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice & 2 cups of water needed for this amount of cooked rice. If using different rice, follow package instructions. The rice can also be made the day before and is actually better if cold and refrigerated!

2. Once the rice has been cooked, prep the rest of the ingredients. First, chop all the vegetables including the carrots and onions, and set aside the peas and edamame. Then, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sugar to form a thin sauce.

3. Next, add the vegan butter to a wok and turn on the heat. Once the butter has melted and the wok is hot, add in the onion and cook for 2 minutes on high heat until translucent. Then, add in the rest of the vegetables (edamame, peas, carrots), and cook another 2 minutes.

4. Next, add in the stir fry sauce and cooked white rice and stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure to stir to evenly mix in the sauce and break up any rice clumps that may form.

5. Remove the fried rice from the heat and serve immediately. Top with furikake seasoning or sliced green onions for extra flavor. Enjoy.

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