Share Our Strength®, a national nonprofit, is ending childhood hunger in America by connecting children with the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives. Through its No Kid Hungry® Campaign—a national effort to end childhood hunger in America—Share Our Strength ensures children in need are enrolled in effective federal nutrition programs; invests in community organizations fighting hunger; teaches families how to cook healthy, affordable meals; and builds public-private partnerships to end childhood hunger, at the state and city level. Working closely with the culinary industry and relying on the strength of its volunteers, Share Our Strength hosts innovative culinary fundraising events and develops pioneering cause marketing campaigns that support No Kid Hungry.
Share Our Strength’s goals include increasing access to public and private programs that provide food to children and their families, strengthening community resources that connect children to healthy food, and improving families’ knowledge about available programs and how to get the most from limited resources.
Share Our Strength’s innovation and creativity have helped earn our reputation as one of America’s most effective nonprofits. Since our inception in 1984, Share Our Strength has raised more than $300 million and supported more than 1,000 groups around the world working to end childhood hunger. Since its inception, Share Our Strength:
- Has developed a presence in all 50 states;
- Reached more than 100,000 participants through Cooking Matters;
- Gained greater visibility through national media coverage of our No Kid Hungry Campaign launch, led by national spokesperson and Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges;
- Advocated on Capitol Hill and through our culinary and individual networks to ensure the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals. With the help of volunteer culinary and nutrition experts, course participants learn how to select nutritious and low-cost ingredients and prepare them in ways that provide the best nourishment possible to their families. Cooking Matters plays an essential role in Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign and is generously supported by the Walmart Foundation.
In structure and in practice, Cooking Matters is collaborative. Each local Cooking Matters program is run by a city or statewide social service agency, except in Boston and Denver where Share Our Strength operates the program directly. Share Our Strength has a franchise-style partnership with these organizations which are referred to as Cooking Matters Implementation Partners.
The Implementation Partners then, in turn, collaborate with neighborhood social service agencies around their area where the classes are held. These sites are places where low-income people seek services, and often include schools, housing programs, Head Start centers, and WIC clinics. Hosting Cooking Matters courses is an easy way for these community agencies to expand the services they offer to their clients. By utilizing existing facilities and relationships in its service delivery model, Cooking Matters leverages both its own resources and those of the host sites.
In addition to providing critical nutrition education services, Cooking Matters courses enhance the community agencies in other ways. They provide a vehicle for agencies to reach out to their communities and attract new clients since the cooking classes are fun and non-threatening. Community members that come to an agency to attend a Cooking Matters course sometimes begin to receive additional services, including help accessing the federal nutrition programs and other public programs.
Cooking Matters’ goals are:
- To improve the nutrition knowledge, eating habits, cooking skills, food safety practices, food resource management, and financial planning skills of people at risk of hunger so they can better provide for themselves and their families;
- To provide chefs, nutritionists, and others with an outlet to get involved in their communities and to share their skills with people who can benefit from the information.
The Cooking Matters program was designed with the following principles in mind:
- The negative health and economic effects of hunger and poor diet can be avoided if families know how to shop for and prepare healthy, low-cost meals;
- Chefs are valued instructors because of their expertise in food preparation and budgeting as well as their creativity and energy;
- Food is to be enjoyed – Those living on a low-income deserve to enjoy their food as well – and need to know how to create food that is delicious, satisfying, and healthy;
- Cooking family meals is an important social activity;
- Volunteering, or sharing our strengths, is a way to create community wealth.
Since 1993, Cooking Matters (formerly Share Our Strength’s Operation Frontline®) has grown to serve over 100,000 participants across the country, helping them learn how to eat better on a budget. Today, over 85 percent of Cooking Matters participants graduate, taking with them improved nutrition practices, eating habits, and food budgeting skills.
Cooking Matters has received special recognition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for excellence in nutrition education. The program was also featured by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, a nationwide initiative dedicated to raising a healthier generation of kids.
Cooking Matters Courses and Tours
Each Cooking Matters Lead Partner chooses which courses/tours to offer in its community. The decision generally depends on the organization’s mission and the types of agencies best suited to host Cooking Matters courses/tours in their area.
Curricula available to Satellite Partners include:
- Cooking Matters for Adults teaches low-income adults (primarily adults with children) how to prepare and shop sensibly for healthy meals on a limited budget – English and Spanish;
- Cooking Matters for Kids engages kids ages 8 to 12 in learning about healthy eating and provides simple nutritious recipes that children can prepare themselves;
- Cooking Matters for Families teaches school-age children (ages 6 to 12) and their parents about healthy eating as a family and the importance of working together to plan and prepare healthy meals on a budget – English and Spanish;
- Cooking Matters for Teens teaches teens how to make healthy food choices, meals and snacks for themselves, their families and friends;
- Cooking Matters for Child Care Professionals teaches culinary staff and educators at preschool centers and home based care centers how to prepare healthy meals on a budget – continuing education credit hours are available for childcare staff;
- Cooking Matters for Parents teaches parents of young children how to prepare healthy meals on a limited budget;
- Cooking Matters at the Store for Adults – English and Spanish;
- Cooking Matters at the Store for WIC parents – English and Spanish.
Toolkits available to Satellite Partners include:
- Cooking in our Community – designed for all ages
- Chefs and Kids – elementary ages
- Exploring Food Together – preschool ages
- Food Pantry – provides a step by step guide for implementing nutrition education into food pantries