When a cause makes this much sense and the working model appears this much fun, it’s hard not to be captivated.
Share Our Strength is a nationwide non-profit whose aim is to end childhood hunger in America. Not just by ensuring enough to eat for our kids, but by ensuring nutrition from the best kinds of food. This means Share Our Strength relies on investments of knowledge, time and money — a bit of each in equal measure — to achieve its ‘No Kid Hungry’ strategy. Plus, willing participants.
The ‘willing participants’ part is why Steve Dunn, a local food writer/photographer, contacted PRK. To all you readers out there, what follows is a ‘right-down-front-street’ request that you volunteer. But don’t get spooked! We figure that if there’s one overriding reason you follow this blog it’s because you love food. This being so, you probably share your passion with others — online and, of course, in person. The latter is where Steve Dunn comes in.
Dunn serves on the board of Cooking Matters Massachusetts, the local arm of Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters. The Cooking Matters initiative, now almost 20-years-old, educates members of low-income communities how to shop economically and cook in a way that is appetizing and culturally acceptable. Classes are dedicated to children, teens and adults, also to expectant mothers and parents with kids, so that all age-groups gain practical skills and knowledge that last a life-time and can be shared down the line.
What makes the program so impressive is that it’s run by volunteers — culinary and nutrition professionals, even translators, who donate their time and skill sets to Cooking Matters’ six-week-long programs. What goes on during the classes is all hands-on learning related to cooking and nutrition: knife skills, food storage, sanitation in the kitchen, how to compare food unit prices, how to use a food thermometer, etc. Participants complete the course, says Dunn, with kitchen tools and a book of recipes which are both replicable at home and inexpensive.
“Cooking Matters aims to myth-bust,” Dunn remarks. “We want people to learn that you can eat well in an economical way, that cooking at home is not too expensive or time-consuming.” (This gives you a sense of the resources offered: as part of a related Share Our Strength program dubbed Shopping Matters, WIC parents in New York’s Hudson Valley will take a guided tour of a local grocery store and receive healthy recipes, coupons, a grocery list notepad, a healthy food shopping list, a calculator to help participants compare unit prices, a shopping guide with health and money-saving tips, and nutrition education materials.)
In Massachusetts, Cooking Matters partners with in-community organizations such as ABCD Head Start, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Boston, South Middlesex Opportunity Council and Growing Places Garden Project. The cities it serves are varied, with courses held in Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Chelsea, Cambridge, Quincy, Plymouth, Fitchburg, Framingham, Worcester, Marlborough and Cape Cod.
What can you do?
- Donate your time, your skills, whatever they may be. Contact Cooking Matters and become a volunteer! Training for new volunteers occurs each month in different locales, so there is ample opportunity to hop on board. And there’s a role for everyone. Beyond dieticians and trained culinarians, Cooking Matters relies on course assistants, class shoppers, event planners and photographers to help support their programs.
- Donate some money if you can’t spare the time in this moment. Every bit helps.
- Come to Share our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Boston fundraising event on Thursday, April 19, at the Hynes Convention Center. 100% of the proceeds go to SOS’s efforts to end childhood hunger in the U.S.