Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters in Massachusetts (a SNAP-Ed partner) provides practical food skills education for individuals to purchase and prepare foods that meet their nutrition, budget, and personal needs. Since this program began in Massachusetts in 1994, over 45,000 people learned these crucial skills and found solutions for common struggles such as limited time, money, and feeding picky kids.
In April 2020, Cooking Matters pivoted to offer education online in the time of social distancing. This transition allowed Cooking Matters to reach an even wider audience, including people who face barriers to in-person participation even in the best of times.
Making Opportunity Count Inc., a community organization based in Fitchburg, MA, partnered with Cooking Matters to run a series of seven online classes for local parents and caregivers of children (ages 0-5). Each lesson consisted of live cooking demos and group conversations, with trained facilitators leading discussions about healthy recipes, budgeting ideas, and menu-planning tips.
Mariana, one participant in the class, preferred attending online because she could join quickly and easily from home. Though at first she admitted, “I hate cooking! … I hate how time-consuming [it] is,” she later said, “the classes…made me feel that going to the kitchen is less of a hassle” and explained how much she had learned:
- Meal Planning: Learning about meal planning made her more efficient in the kitchen. It also helped her save money on groceries.
- Kids in the Kitchen: Mariana shared, “After the class I’ve been putting my kids in the kitchen more.” The vegetables look a bit rougher now that her kids are chopping them, but she does not mind, and her kids are having daily exposure to preparing healthy foods!
- Nutrition: She had heard before that whole grains were healthier, but did not know why. The class taught her the difference between refined and whole grain products and she was excited to learn how and why they are a healthier choice.
A quick look at the numbers shows the impact of Cooking Matters’ online programming. From April to December 2020:
- 430 families took part in online programs in Massachusetts
- 60 online programs were offered
- 20 community organizations hosted a Cooking Matters program online
- 93% of survey respondents indicated they will use the food preparation skills they learned in class most days or every day
- 2.8 million viewers nationwide have watched weekly live videos on the Cooking Matters National Facebook page – 34,000 of those viewers are from Massachusetts
- Beyond these numbers, SNAP-Ed evaluation framework indicators will include ST2, ST4, and ST1.
To be more accessible and reach more caregivers, Cooking Matters plans to continue online classes even after the pandemic. As Mariana put it, “I hope this has a strong impact in our community, with the people that joined: to be able to eat healthy, bring up healthier future generations, and be more aware of what they eat.”
This article was submitted by Share our Strength's Cooking Matters, a SNAP-Ed Implementing Agency. For questions about the program, please contact Alicia McCabe. For more information, please visit Cooking Matters.