Cooking Matters empowers people to make healthy food choices and save money at the same time. The program is part of a broader strategy to end childhood hunger, the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. ConAgra Foods Foundation and Walmart sponsor the program nationally. Gleaner’s Community Food Bank in Detroit partners with Michigan State University Extension to make the program possible locally.
In District 3, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) has been providing the Cooking Matters program for both adults and teens for the last three years. Many other counties in the state are now providing the program for these two groups and some have added a program for child care providers. An MSU Extension nutrition instructor and a local volunteer chef team-teaches the class.
Lately, MSU Extension’s role in the program has been front-page news. The Feb. 16-17 edition of the Manistee News Advocate featured a story about students at CASMAN Academy in Manistee County receiving cooking and nutrition instruction through MSU Extension’s Cooking Matters for Teens.
Extension program instructor Cyndi Jacobi got the ball rolling at the academy, getting the program started. Cyndi provides nutrition instruction. Nutrition education and cooking instruction team up to create a valuable life skill for these students. Cyndi incorporated cooking expertise from Nick Wemple, student chef from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College. The six-week course will culminate with the students preparing a meal for the entire student and staff population at the academy.
Cyndi said, “Nick is a graduate of the CASMAN Alternative Academy and I think that makes him an excellent role model for the students. CASMAN has a hands-on approach to learning with small classroom size, a perfect fit for Cooking Matters.”
After the six-week program, Nick will continue to work with the students. They will help plan meals and cook for the entire student body and staff, approximately 80 people, every Friday through the rest of the school year. The skills that the students learn could lead to a possible job in food service or could spark an interest in attending a culinary institute.
Other media noticed an Extension team providing Cooking Matters elsewhere in the state. Watch this MTM on the Road video from 9&10 News Cadillac in which Extension program leaders Lori Eccles and Michelle Smith talk about the Cooking Matters program the two present at Forest Area High School in Fife Lake, Kalkaska County: http://www.9and10news.com/story/21279615/mtm-on-the-road-cooking-matters.
Lori said, “The team-teaching approach helps add another dimension to the learning for the participants. In some of the classes, graduates from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute have volunteered to teach. We’ve also worked with local restaurant owners and chefs, which adds to the community connection. Restaurant owners and chefs help teach the cooking aspects of the class. Not only are the participants learning healthy ways of eating based on MyPlate recommendations, they are also able to actually prepare a healthy recipe. In the adult classes, they are able to take the groceries home for the recipe prepared in class so they can make it for their families.”
Another Cooking Matters series begins in Forest Area High School March 7 for the second semester health students. The food service director will be joining the students as the chef.
Lori said, “It truly has become a school-wide endeavor to provide the tools necessary for the students to leave with skills to take steps toward a healthier future.”
Extension educator Jennifer Berkey supervises Cyndi, Lori and Michelle, providing help and guidance along the way.
Many of our MSU Extension colleagues have equipped families through the Cooking Matters program. Read this MSU Extension News article by Extension educator Denise Aungst that tells more about the program: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/cooking_matters_makes_a_difference_with_michigan_families