Posted by Susan Halpin on October 2nd, 2020
Posted in: Blog, Public Health
Tags: alleviate hunger, childhood hunger, Cooking Matters, cooking with kids, culinary education, families cooking together, food preparation, food preparation skills, grocery shopping skills, nutrition education, Share Our Strength
Falling leaves, apples and pumpkins are images that come to my mind as I turn my calendar page to the new month of October. Attending agricultural and harvest fairs are some of my favorite weekend activities as I settle into the “Back to School” routine. Even though I am not a teacher in a school with children anymore, at this time of year I still experience those conflicting feelings of sadness that the freedom of summer is over and a bit of gratitude that it’s time to begin a more structured and predictable routine. However, everything is different in the fall of 2020 because of COVID.
Back to school looks different this year as many schools were forced to delay their first days of school in order to prepare teachers, students and schools with sufficient protective equipment, distancing rules and disinfecting routines to prevent the spread of the virus. Many other schools have opted to start the school year with all remote learning that will be in place for a specified amount of time, as my city of Worcester, Massachusetts has done.
As children start their new school year, it is a fact that many will not have the most important school supply of all and that is FOOD. According to No KID Hungry, a national campaign run by the Share Our Strength ( https://www.shareourstrength.org/) organization, estimates that as many as 1 in 4 children in the U.S. may face hunger this year because of the coronavirus. Before COVID-19, hunger was an issue in our country. Millions of K-12 students relied on school for food, for some it was the only meal they may get on a given day. With many schools closed, school leaders and non-profit agencies are working hard to provide children with the food they need even though school doors are closed. With many parents are out of work, more children than ever may be facing hunger.
Share Our Strength is a national organization working to end childhood hunger in the U.S. The organization holds culinary events, solicits donations and uses social media to raise funds that are then used to fund long-term solutions to end the hunger problem. Under its No Kid Hungry campaign, it runs several programs that address the issue of childhood hunger from different angles. One of their programs is called Cooking Matters (https://cookingmatters.org/). The Cooking Matters campaign is helping end childhood hunger by inspiring families to make healthy, affordable food choices. This program is one of the best culinary and nutrition programs I have had the priviledge of working with. Several years ago, I was a volunteer culinary and nutrition instructor for the program. Here is the information from their website about how the Cooking Matters program works.
We envision a world where all caregivers have the skills they need to prepare healthy, low-cost meals for their families. We work toward this vision by providing education programming to families, mobilizing a network of community partners, and working to engage and influence key stakeholders on the value of food skills education–practical education for individuals to purchase and prepare foods that meet their nutrition, budget, and personal needs. The combined impact of these strategies empowers families with the skills they need to build lifelong healthy habits for their children, and to help shape the way our society values and prioritizes healthy eating.
Our participants are parents and caregivers with a limited food budget who want to provide healthy meals for their families. We have a particular focus on parents and caregivers of young children under the age of six.
Our programs teach parents and caregivers to shop for and cook healthy meals – building a world where healthy eating choices are available for everyone. Cooking Matters educates through interactive, hands-on lessons and digital education tools and resources.
We partner with citywide, regional, and statewide nonproﬁts, community groups, social service agencies, universities, and healthcare and public organizations across the country. These valued partners use our curricula to provide in-person cooking courses and grocery tours in venues that are convenient and familiar to Cooking Matters participants.
Dedicated facilitators support Cooking Matters Partners by helping to lead in-person lessons. These chefs, students, Registered Dietitians, nutrition educators and people with a passion for good food are critical to achieving our mission.
We have over two decades of nationally-recognized food skills education experience working directly with low-income families and community partners. Cooking Matters participants who receive time-saving, budgeting and food-preparation skills are more able and likely to switch to healthier meal preparations.
Although the in-person, hands-on programming is suspended during the pandemic, Cooking Matters is using Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/cookingmatters.national/) to share nutrition and culinary information through Facebook Live sessions. They have a Facebook group for support and tip-sharing and posts with information about stretching food resources while staying at home.
Here are some of the other useful resources, No Kid Hungry and Cooking Matters has available;
No Kid Hungry has an online tool to locate free meals for kids. Go to https://www.nokidhungry.org/find-free-meals and enter your address.
Cooking Matters has also curated its tips and videos to online to provide support to families through this unprecedented time http://cookingmatters.org/tips.
Use https://cookingmatters.org/educational-tools to see the other online educational toolkits and handouts that Cooking Matters has made available to teach nutrition and food preparation skills to caregivers, children, community organizations and even food pantries. These are terrific tools if you want to make a nutritious, economical and delicious meal together with your family. All of the recipes Cooking Matters uses are created by chefs.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.