‘Cooking Matters’ in Nashua community

Six-week program aims to teach healthy and affordable meal prep to families

Staff photo by Grace Pecci Cooking Matters Program Assistant Katie Robertson shows Nashua parents how to cook healthy on a budget as part of the Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters class. The six-week program is taking place at The First Church of Nashua. This particular lesson focused on making quick and simple breakfasts and reading labels.

NASHUA – Down in the basement kitchen of The First Church Nashua, members of the Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters class have been whisking eggs, sauteeing veggies and producing nutritious, cost-saving meals that they can recreate for their children.

“In 2004, the New Hampshire Food Bank began hosting the nationwide Cooking Matters program in an effort to serve its mission of educating the public about the nature of, and solutions to, problems of hunger in New Hampshire,” New Hampshire Food Bank’s website states. Cooking Matters is locally sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets.

Share of Strength’s Cooking Matters has returned to Nashua once again. The six-week program is being taught by Cooking Matters Program Assistant Katie Robertson, with the help of her dietetic intern and an American Corps worker in the basement of First Church in Nashua. To take this class, members have to fall into a certain income level and must be a parent.

This is not the first time the class has been available in Nashua. Robertson said in the past, they have partnered with Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School and the 21st Century after-school program for family classes, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua for a kids’ program. They are working to get more classes available as well. Robertson said their culinary nutrition classes target parents who have kids up to age 5.

Robertson hopes to add more classes to the future. She said this wouldn’t be possible without the help of Grow Nashua’s Executive Director Justin Munroe, who has been able to help move this program forward with his connections to resources in Nashua.

Munroe said about three years ago, he met Alexis Dwyer, Cooking Matters New Hampshire Coordinator, when he was volunteering at a Cooking Matters class. He immediately knew he wanted to bring the program to Nashua.

Robertson said Munroe’s help has been the key to their success.

Munroe and Robertson said they are planning to add more classes in the future.

The Share our Strength’s Cooking Matters class taking place at The First Church Nashua is a six-week free program that teaches parents cooking skills, along with budgeting skills for when they are out at the grocery store.

During their class Thursday, they focused on creating a quick and easy breakfast meal. They learned how to make frittata “southwestern breakfast cups” and muffins. While the treats were cooking, they got a lesson on reading labels and unit prices.

They have covered a lot in the last four weeks.

“We will do lessons on healthy food choices, identifying whole grains, reading food labels, making lists and we do knife safety skills as well. We look at how you prepare yourself with ingredients so you have success. We look at reading recipes and how to go through a recipe,” Robertson said.

Robertson said these classes teach people how to learn together.

“It’s a really fun way to do it. A lot of folks are home cooks, so they usually have a pretty good idea of what’s going to work in their kitchen, but it’s always fun when you get a group of people who are all different in a room,” Robertson said. “We all do things differently, so they will teach and we will learn something new as well. It’s community learning.”

Robertson said they have class expectations, and one is that everyone keeps an open mind.

“We encourage everybody not to yuck anybody’s yum.”

Robertson said this was a term she had learned through her classes.

“If you have food and the person next to you says, ‘That’s disgusting, how can you eat that,’ it doesn’t encourage the person to feel good about their food,” Robertson said.

Robertson said the cooking classes have been successful.

“We were all really surprised to find out that it wasn’t the free food that brings people in, but more, it’s the sense of community. Sharing that meal together really brings people together,” Robertson said.

Members from all walks of life can become united through this class, she said.

“We have people that come in who are working multiple jobs, so meeting once a week for two hours can sound intimidating, but we tell them this is time for themselves — this is self care,” Robertson added.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.