1 in 6 children in Colorado battle hunger and don’t know when they’ll get their next meal.
One of the biggest struggles for low-income families receiving food assistance is helping them stretch their dollar at the grocery store. This is where a program called ‘Cooking Matters’ comes into play.
The free course helps families cook healthy meals for less than $2 a serving.
“A lot of families feel like cost is the biggest challenge to eating healthy,” Cooking Matters Community Engagement Manager Becky Mares said. “I think when we can work with them on how to save money at the store and use ingredients they already have on hand, it’s not as challenging.”
Mares oversees a six-week class where a volunteer culinary and nutrition educator teach children and families about healthy food choices.
“We’ve actually done some studies that show after taking ‘Cooking Matters’, families run out of food less often than before,” Mares said. “They are eating more fruits and vegetables and they become more confident in the kitchen and it becomes a family experience at home.”
Reylicia Martinez and her grandparents decided to enroll.
“I really like cooking,” Reylicia said.
Her grandmother, Christine, says the program has helped her family find inexpensive , healthy alternatives at a time when childhood obesity is rising.
“Reylicia sees a lot of kids who are on the heavier side and she’s like, ‘Nana, people make fun of these kids and I don’t want to be like that’ and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Christine Bower said. “It’s like you know what, we need to do something about that.”
On the day News 5 was invited to class, the instructor showed families how to make healthy turkey tacos.
“Turkey is leaner meat than beef,” the instructor said. “In our tacos we’re also going to add pinto beans and tomatoes.”
Each week, instructors bring new recipes.
“My granddaughter has never really been exposed to a whole lot of cooking in the kitchen and now this has made her more interested,” Bower said.
To keep the kids entertained, instructors are careful to keep weekly cooking sessions a mystery.
“They don’t tell us what we are going to cook,” Reylicia said. “It’s a surprise.”
Prior to enrolling, some families said they would routinely frequent fast food restaurants.
“It’s so much more convenient to stop at Wendy’s or McDonald’s,” Bower said.
There’s also a misconception that fast food prices are more affordable.
Recipes with ‘Cooking Matters’ are all based on a budget of $1.80 per serving or less,” Mares said.
‘Cooking Matters’ also offers free grocery store tours where a nutrition expert will go shopping with the family and help them budget.
“I recommend this program to anyone to anyone who has children that can be exposed in the kitchen,” Bower said. “This is where they learn and grow. If they take more interest now when they are younger, they keep it as they grow older and they don’t go out to eat all the time.”