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Fresh choices and healthy ideas

October 10, 2013
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Nut ed Cooking and nutrition classes change habits

Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters® program brings hands-on cooking skills and nutrition education to families throughout our region and around the country. While classes in the Metro area began in 1999, CCA Regional Food Bank in Clatsop County was the first OFB satellite partner to offer the Cooking Matters® program in its coastal community in 2010.

Marlin Martin remembers one of the first young women who attended. “Prior to her class, she fed her children Hamburger Helper three to four times every week,” says Martin, the Food Bank Director at the Astoria-based center. “Since the class, she never uses it. Meals are comprised of fresh fruits and veggies and then filled in with other things.”

Cooking Matters is a six-week nutrition education course now offered in the metro area and at seven satellite partners throughout the state. And, it’s growing. The volunteer-taught program provides training in practical skills, including hands-on cooking, nutrition, food safety and budget shopping.

A take-home bag of groceries is provided at the end of each week’s class, so participants can introduce menus in their households and practice cooking skills during the week.

Martin asked OFB to bring the program to Clatsop County after a Community Food Assessment identified interest in nutrition education. Years later, he knows this program is making a difference in his community.

The woman called him two years after the course. “She said: ‘I want you to know, that since I took
your class, I now have two community garden plots with my two children,” recalls Martin.

“’We go over to our plots every day to work in the gardens. If you need any volunteers in your garden, I would love to come and help.’ This was such a powerful thing for this young woman to do.”

At satellite partners across the state — like CCA Regional Food Bank in Clatsop County — 743 families have benefited from the Cooking Matters program. This year alone, satellite partners coordinated 33 six‐week classes serving 323 participants in 10 counties — a 44 percent jump in participants over last year. Metro-area programs accounted for another 46 courses serving 530 participants. Oregon Food Bank adopted the program in 1999, along with the collaboration of the Oregon State University Extension Service Nutrition Education Program. Many community volunteers and more than 6,500 families have participated statewide.

“They are committed to that change in their diets of eating more vegetables,” says Martin. “In a small community where we know people, so it’s really easy to recognize them and see those changes.”
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