The staff and volunteers at 18 Reasons, a nonprofit cooking school in San Francisco, share their kitchen know-how through Cooking Matters, a program that teaches families how to shop and cook on a low-income budget. Here, they meet over lunch to talk about the issues facing the communities they cook with.
Above: 18 Reasons' Executive Director Sarah Nelson and program manager Briana Tejuco set the table to host a lunchtime gathering for their volunteers. The nonprofit cooking school is a hub in the community, offering nightly cooking classes and community dinners featuring guest chefs and local farmers. Learn more at 18reasons.org.
Open Kitchen, Open Conversation
Chef instructors, nutrition volunteers and class assistants for 18 Reasons' Cooking Matters program talk about their experiences teaching and cooking in underserved communities. Whether it's addressing food access or increasing kitchen confidence, the group is on a mission to make an impact — and it's working: according to research, Cooking Matters graduates are eating less salt, consuming more fruit and vegetables and feel more confident in stretching their food dollars.
SARAH: I think a lot of people see healthy cooking as a luxury, something that requires a lot of time or money. Have you noticed that?
KEVIN: Yes. I've been teaching Cooking Matters with 18 Reasons for about two-and-a-half years now, and I've worked everywhere from middle schools to diabetes clinics. It's fascinating to see how people's eyes light up when they realize how easy it is to make a delicious, healthy meal with affordable ingredients.
JELISSA: I work with youth in the high school and, for a lot of them, the meal we make at Cooking Matters classes after school is the first meal they get all day. I love that we get all the ingredients at whatever food outlet is nearby, whether it's a grocery store or a corner store, so it's accessible for them to go make it at home.
SARAH: The "affordable ingredient" part is so important. In a lot of the communities we work in, people travel more than 20 minutes to a grocery store. Food access is a challenge.
BRIANA: One of my favorite memories from Cooking Matters was at the end of the six-week program, when we had a mini-graduation for all the students. One gentleman started crying when I presented him with his certificate; he said this was the first time he had ever graduated from anything. It brought tears to all of our eyes because, at that moment, you just knew the work you were doing was so impactful.
ELSA: It is so impactful. I actually started off as a student in a Cooking Matters class. When I first heard about it I thought I already know how to cook! but I learned so much. Then I got trained to be a Cooking Matters instructor and it changed my life. I love teaching, even the teenagers, who people often think are difficult. It keeps me on track too — my doctor recently told me that I'm no longer pre-diabetic.
Williams Sonoma believes in the
power of cooking in every community.
That's why in 2017 we raised two million
dollars for Share Our Strength, the
anti-hunger organization behind Cooking
Matters and No Kid Hungry.
To get involved in Cooking Matters in
your town, visit cookingmatters.org.