From learning lifelong skills to improving diet to fostering a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, the benefits of cooking with children are well-established. While parents are encouraged to find ways to involve their children in meal preparation at home, many schools are incorporating cooking activities into their health, science and math curricula as a way to promote healthy eating.
There are several resources available to schools interested in incorporating cooking into school days or afterschool programming. Cooperative Extension and Cooking Matters may be great places to start.
Cooking Matters is a Share Our Strength program founded in 1993 and is part of the No Kid Hungry campaign, which is working to end childhood hunger in America. Through cooking classes and interactive grocery store tours, Cooking Matters partners teach families how to make the most of the food budget so that families prepare affordable, nutritious meals.
Cooking Matters uses a collaborative model designed to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of the cooking classes. Educational materials, training, evaluation, and national leadership are provided by Share Our Strength. Local partners, such as Cooperative Extension, deliver the program to meet the needs of their communities. Cooking Matters partners may already exist in your area!
Cooperative Extension agencies in many states across the nation have thriving partnerships with Cooking Matters. Likewise, Cooperative Extension is an excellent resource and is well positioned to help bridge the gap between home and school and increase the impact of nutrition education by providing the same messages to children at school as is given to the parents and adults.
Cooperative Extension educators may be able to come directly to classrooms and/or afterschool programs to provide nutrition lessons, food demonstrations, cooking opportunities, and tasting experiences. Cooperative Extension programs like SNAP-Education, Expanded Food Nutrition Education, and 4-H use research-based curricula for different age groups and grade levels. The lessons are interactive, connected to many of the common core and state standards, and fun! Click here to find the Cooperative Extension in your state.