LiveWell Louisiana

Food For All

Cooking Matters, a nutrition and cooking-education program offered by Second Harvest Food Bank, offers low-income families and individuals the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy meals.
June 25th, 2014 by: Lianna Patch

Second Harvest partnered with national organization Share Our Strength to begin offering the program in 2011. Kate McDonald, the Nutrition Education Coordinator who oversees Cooking Matters, offers free courses to community centers, churches and other organizations that serve low-income Louisiana residents. There are six individual courses tailored to kids, teens, adults, families, child-care professionals and even young parents.

“Each course is six weeks, and every single class is centered around a nutrition idea,” McDonald says. Classes include visual demonstrations of nutrition concepts, and everyone cooks. In some classes, participants take home a bag of groceries. Adult, family and teen-oriented classes also include a guided grocery-store tour, during which participants learn how to read nutrition labels and how to “debunk some of the ideas about what’s healthy in the grocery store,” McDonald says.

“Honestly, everyone really needs to go on one of these tours. So many people don’t have this information!”

McDonald teaches many Cooking Matters classes herself, and she relies on a corps of dedicated volunteers for help. Volunteers don’t need to be chefs. “They just have to be interested in helping other people, and have an interest in food and healthy eating,” McDonald says. “I think it’s empowering that people from the community are lifting up others from the community. It feels less like a class and more like a gathering of peers.”

With volunteer help, Cooking Matters is growing — and traveling. “We’ve expanded to Lafayette and Baton Rouge,” McDonald says. “It has incredible potential to be a huge part of the food-access culture in the state of Louisiana.” She predicts that the program will offer 55 six-week courses in 2015.

Knowing that not everyone can dedicate two hours per week for six weeks to a cooking course, Second Harvest is also working on the Healthy Pantry Project, a new program that will make nutrition information and cooking demonstrations available at all 300 Louisiana food pantries the organization serves. For more information visit