Cooking classes not only have continued during the pandemic, but the Poe Center for Health Education’s SNAP-Ed cooking programs increased the number of participants by transitioning to virtual platforms.
Typically, the Poe Center hosts nutrition and cooking programs onsite in their CookWELL teaching kitchen. They also travel to educate North Carolinians across the state. When COVID 19 prevented face to face education in March 2020, regular programming ceased, while the need for healthy cooking education increased with people making more meals at home.
The Poe Center modified traditional in-person cooking classes for a virtual format with live instruction. Poe Center’s May 2020 pilot online cooking program was conducted in partnership with Rick’s Place, a community center for military families in Fayetteville NC. Poe Center and Rick’s Place had partnered previously for Cooking Matters. Through a separate funding source, Rick’s place was able to purchase and distribute the necessary ingredients for a healthy recipe to participating families.
*“This was so so fun!! Having all the ingredients right here in front of me was the best part because I felt like I was on a cooking show. The food was so tasty and healthy.”
Participants were children, youth and adults from military families. A virtual Cooking Matters Store tour had been offered prior to the hands-on cooking programs. Participants logged on to a scheduled Zoom session for an interactive nutrition and cooking education program facilitated by Poe Center staff and together prepared the selected recipe.
*“The instructors had exceptionally clear instructions and were interactive with questions and checking on how everyone was doing.”
Poe educators noted multiple advantages of teaching cooking skills with participants in their own homes. The setting of one’s own kitchen is familiar and comfortable. Participants cooking at home fosters a higher level of confidence and accomplishment. Additionally, everyone in the home was able to sample the healthy dishes, not just the program participants.
*“Very easy and healthy recipes, the food provided was so fresh and delicious.”
*“It was fun for my kids to help prepare the meal at home and have step by step instructions. My girls enjoyed being able to participate.”
Participants also commented on still having a feeling of connection in the virtual format. The cooking classes at Poe accommodate 10-16 per class, more can participate virtually.
“Just really really fun and I am so glad you figured out how to get all the food to people and create the Zoom link and all the effort it took to do this for us. I was feeling a bit sad before this, we needed something fun to come along and this made our night.”
Program evaluation results
100% reported enjoying the taste of the food prepared.
91% reported planning to make the food again.
The Poe Center is looking forward to continuing the partnership with Rick’s Place and expanding to serve other agencies as well. Cooking programs have been scheduled with Raleigh Parks and Rec, YMCA and Sampson County Center for Health and Wellness Programs are evaluated with pre and post-tests. SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework Indicators include ST1, ST2, ST4, MT1.
*Indicates cooking program participant post evaluation quote