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Entries in Cooking Matters (5)

Friday
Jun032011

So this is what it's like to try and get food (stamps)

Remember that trip I took to Texas back in January?

The one where I learned about the ConAgra Foods Foundation's work with the Share our Strength organization and specifically, with the Cooking Matters program?

Remember how I got to see the North Texas Food Bank warehouse?

Remember how I sat in on a few Cooking Matters classes that teach not only basic nutrition, but also ways to shop and cook healthy on a budget?

Well all of that was great. But there was an experience I had, and video taped, back in January that shows exactly WHY ConAgra Foods Foundation's support of Cooking Matters is so important.

FRUSTRATION

That is the best word I can find to describe how it must feel to try and feed a family when you do not have the money to do so. Sure, there are 'social services' available - but it's not easy to obtain them.

And to give us an idea, the Cooking Matters bootcamp folks made us go through a simulation, if you will.

This was my experience:

 

What would you have done?

Disclosure: ConAgra and Share our Strength paid for my trip to Texas and I will receive a stipend for my work helping to tell the story and promote Cooking Matters. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own and this post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to posting.

Saturday
May072011

Last Minute Mother's Day Gift Idea

Need a Last Minute Gift for Mom?

Did you forgot to get that Mother's Day card in the mail until today?

Or maybe you had her gift in your Amazon basket but were distracted by a work call and forgot to actually place the order?

Whatever the reason - if you are one of the many people who had good intentions but will come up a little short this Mother's Day I have have a great last-minute gift idea!

Make a Donation to Share Our Strength and Create an e-card

Visit Share Our Strength and donate anywhere from $5 to even $100 in honor of your mother and know that your donation will help a mother who is struggling to feed her own family.

At the bottom of the page you can customize an e-card to be sent to your mom so she knows you not only care about her, but you care about other moms in the US.

Want to Share More with Mom?

Here's what I've learned through working with Cooking Matters.

Hunger Fear Anger Hope

Cooking Matters: Learning the Basics

Cooking Matters: The chef and the food and what matters

Janine

Disclosure: I have a relationship with ConAgra Foods Foundation and Share our Strength and I receive a stipend for my work telling the story and promoting Cooking Matters. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own and this post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to being published.

Tuesday
Apr052011

Cooking Matters class part 2: the chef and the food and what matters

If you are new here you might want to read Cooking Matters class part 1

Learning to cook takes a dash of curious mixed with a pinch of bravery

 

Cooking matters volunteers and groceries

Cooking Matters is a program developed by the folks at Share Our Strength and supported by the wonderful people at ConAgra Foods Foundation that helps those in need learn to shop, and prepare healthier meals while staying on a budget. In this economy, this is something we can all learn to do better and the boot camp and classes I sat in on were chock full of useful advice!

As someone who cooks but does not consider herself "a cook", I often fumble my way through a recipe. Occasionally I have a moment of genius (where I am brave enough to risk an entire meal) where I decide to toss in fresh basil and curry and somehow it works.

But usually I stick to my same-old recipes. 

Now imagine you are someone who lives below the poverty level and you have barely enough money for food. You might not even have a stove! To say cooking would be a challenge is quite an understatement. Yet this is what many people face every day.

Eating is Important but Cooking Matters

 

Photobucket

The Cooking Matters program not only covers nutritional information, but each lesson involves a real chef leading a cooking lesson using a recipe that participants will repeat later that week at home! In the classes I attended we learned the proper way to cut (an onion, a carrot, kale, chicken, etc), simmer, and even how to keep cutting boards and the work surface sanitized.

We learned about seasoning with onion and garlic and pasta water instead of adding salt.

We learned that you can't keep the oil heating too long or it will start to smoke...and then the smoke alarms will go off and then the building is evacuated and then...well you can imagine.

Most important was the exercise of working together to prepare a meal.

Cooking together with people, as a family, with fresh ingredients really can make a difference in our lives.

Cooking gives us time to chat and get to know one another. It allows us time to appreciate the food we have, the color, the vitamins, and the techniques used to prepare this life sustaining element, so that we can nourish our bodies. This process, this thing called cooking, also seems to nourish our souls.

Cooking, not just opening a package and reheating, matters.

For more information on Cooking Matters and how you can get involved with your local Share Our Strength partner or food bank visit cookingmatters.org and how to participate.

Janine

Disclosure: ConAgra Food Foundation and Share our Strength paid for my trip to Texas and I will receive a stipend for my work helping to tell the story and promote Cooking Matters. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own and this post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to being published.

Wednesday
Mar302011

Cooking Matter class part 1: Learning the Basics

Those of us raised in 'healthy' kitchens often take for granted what we know about food.

How did you learn...

The difference between multigrain and whole grain

How to season with herbs and spices instead of just salt

Or even ways to sneak in some extra fruits and veggies into our diet?

Cooking Matter class

Share Our Strength's program called Cooking Matters is helping low-income families learn the basics of a healthier kitchen.

Back in January I went to a Cooking Matters bootcamp in Texas where I learned about the program but also how people in the program can make better use of the food they receive from area food banks.

Recently I sat in on a few Cooking Matters classes and saw first-hand how the program is changing the way people think about the foods they buy and eat. Many do not know HOW to read a nutrition label correctly. Most are on a very tight budget and unfortunately processed foods are often cheaper, and they are certainly easier to prepare (or so we think) than fresh. Yet ALL of the participants in the classes I went to were eager and excited to learn how to cook healthier foods for themselves and their families!

Nutrition, Discussion, and Demos

Each Cooking Matters class has three parts: nutrition, food and cooking

A volunteer nutrition expert (in our case a graduate student who was an excellent teacher) starts off reviewing what they discussed in the previous class and then discussing the lesson for that week. The lesson can cover things like cooking safety, cooking as a family, nutrition information on fruits, veggies, whole grains and fats, and snack options.

In the classes I sat in on we covered how to read food labels (and not just box covers) so you know you are getting real whole grain in your diet. We discussed the difference between good fat versus bad fat.

You notice in the video that WE means the whole group contributes. We traded snack ideas and ways to combine protein and a fruit or veggie to fill us up. And most importantly we learned WHY we need to eat things that have lots of vitamins, fiber, and whole grains.

I especially liked the demonstrations like...

this is how much fat you'd be eating in a meal that consists of a Whopper with Cheese, Medium Fries, and a Medium Shake

 how much fat in a Burger King meal

OR

on the LEFT is an artery that is clogged....see the blood clot? On the right is a healthy one!

Photobucket

Nothing like lard and a big blood clot to get one's attention!

Janine

Disclosure: ConAgra Food Foundation and Share our Strength paid for my trip to Texas and I will receive a stipend for my work helping to tell the story and promote Cooking Matters. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own and this post was neither reviewed nor approved prior to being published.

Thursday
Feb242011

Now THAT is a pantry! A look inside the North Texas Food Bank

You may recall I took a little trip to Texas last month to learn more about the ConAgra Foods Foundation and their support of a new program by Share our Strength called Cooking Matters.

We started our little venture at the North Texas Food Bank that feeds millions of hungry families living below the poverty level. Wait until you see just how much food they turn over in a matter of 14 days!

 

One of the coolest things they do is help feed hungry kids on the weekends when they don't have access to subsidized meals at school. The Backpack Program started when a young girl got in trouble for eating balloons. Finally the principal at her school asked her WHY she continued to eat balloons.

She replied, "I'm hungry."

The little girl had been living with her elderly (and I believe alcoholic) grandmother so she wasn't eating much on the weekends. 

 

The sad thing we learned is that the backpacks only help when school is in session. Summer can be a very long 3 months when you are hungry.

Janine

For more on my trip please read:

Hunger Fear Anger Hope