Local Families at Risk of Hunger Learn that Cooking Matters
Hands-on Classes Teach Families How to Prepare Healthy and Affordable Meals!
By Jessica Maillet
Fifteen percent of Americans are now living in poverty and nearly nearly one in five children’s families lack the necessary resources to provide the nutritious food they need to thrive. Cooking Matters Massachusetts empowers local families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make healthy and affordable meals through its six week program, Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™.
Cooking Matters courses are led by local volunteer culinary and nutrition experts who combine hands-on food preparation with practical nutrition, food budgeting and shopping techniques
Edgar is a Worcester county resident who is currently taking the Cooking Matters program for Kids.
When the students at an elementary school in Fitchburg heard that they would have the opportunity to participate in a Cooking Matters cooking class taught by a culinary instructor and nutritionist, they were thrilled. During our orientation time when we discussed fruits and vegetables, Edgar proudly proclaimed his favorites were collard greens; collard greens are rarely a childhood favorite, but then again, Edgar is one special kid. He explained that his grandfather grew them and he loved to eat them. As we assembled our mini vegetable pizzas, he looked up at me and said, “I love being able to eat all of these vegetables on my pizza.” And despite the fact that collard greens were not on the menu that day, Edgar still exclaimed, “I wish every day at school could be cooking class.“
Sponsored nationally by the ConAgra Foods® Foundation and Walmart, the program now serves more than 1,000 families per month and in 2010 reached more than 10,000 families across the country. To date, almost 600 participants have graduated from the Cooking Matters program in Massachusetts in 2011. In Worcester, Cooking Matters Massachusetts works with the Regional Environmental Council to facilitate programming.
“The recession has impacted families across the country, including those in Massachusetts,” said Janet McLaughlin, national director of Cooking Matters. “Cooking Matters Massachusetts is a valuable community resource that helps local families at risk of hunger. Cooking Matters Massachusetts has outstanding chefs, nutritionists, and other community members who volunteer their skills and expertise, and more support is needed to help meet the high demand for these courses.”
“The ConAgra Foods Foundation is committed to enable all children to get the nourishment they need today so that they can flourish tomorrow. We partner with Cooking Matters to give parents and caregivers the tools they need to provide their families with nutritious, enjoyable meals – even when their budgets might be very tight,” said Kori Reed, vice president of Cause and Foundation at ConAgra Foods.
“It’s important for families to learn how to shop and prepare meals that are nutritious and affordable,” said Julie Gehrki, senior director at the Walmart Foundation. “We’re proud to support Cooking Matters because it’s helping families learn how to stretch their dollars and eat healthy.”