Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cooking Matters in Charlestown

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a cooking class at Cooking Matters in Charlestown. Cooking Matters, which was founded in 1993, is a Share Our Strength program dedicated to empowering low-income families with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to make healthy and affordable meals. The program is nationally sponsored by ConAgra and Walmart.

Cooking Matters courses are made up of six weekly, two-hour sessions, chocked full of hands-on cooking lessons as well as nutrition information and money-saving tips. The class I attended last Thursday evening was the second in this particular series, and the focus was on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. There were about 15 participants in attendance, and a translator was on-hand for those that did not speak English (which was the majority of the class).

At the beginning of the session, each new participant had to sign a waiver and put on a name tag. Once everyone was settled, a Boston University Master's student studying to become a Registered Dietitian spoke to the group for about 30 minutes about the importance of whole grains and how to read nutrition labels effectively.

Finally, it was time to cook. On the menu: Fruit Salad, Brown Rice and Orange Salad, and Pumpkin Soup. A graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts led the demonstration while the class was standing around a large table, complete with cutting boards, knives and the ingredients needed for that night's meal. Each member of the class was given a duty, whether it be squeezing lemons, chopping onions, or slicing up fruit.

After all the prep work was done, the aspiring chef had us walk over to the stove where she cooked the meal. Each and every one of the class members' eyes were wide and glued to the pots and pans, clearly trying to obtain everything the cook was saying and doing.

Once all of the food was cooked, we all sat down and ate together at several round plastic tables. The conversation flowed, and everyone clearly enjoyed their meals.

In order to ensure the participants use what they learned in class back at home, Cooking Matters sends everyone home with a grocery bag - filled with all the ingredients needed to make the dishes prepared that evening - as well as the corresponding recipes.

As an observer of the program, one thing was clear: The class was eager to learn about nutrition and how to cook a healthy meal. It was very heart-warming to experience a program that provides hungry people with a free way to learn how to cook, grocery shop, and save money while doing both. At Cooking Matters, these participants are literally learning skills that they can apply in everyday life to ensure their eating habits are successful and affordable moving forward.


  1. I was supposed to go to this but the timing didn't work out. It sounds like a great program.

  2. so glad this was a heartwarming experience. what a great program.

  3. Nice, Mich! Newly vegetarian? Nice!

  4. Cooking classes are alway so much fun! And it's good to walk away with a full belly and new knowledge.

  5. I like your post! Thanks for sharing!