Six weeks is all it takes to make a significant difference in the life of a hungry child, according to a new report from No Kid Hungry. A new study by an independent evaluation firm shows that No Kid Hungry’s Cooking Matters program – a six-week cooking, shopping and nutrition course for low-income families – has a powerful and sustained impact. Families report shopping smarter, eating healthier, and preparing more meals at home even six months after completing the course. What’s more – they no longer regularly worry that their food might run out each month.
The study’s key findings include:
- Families have increased confidence in the kitchen. More than 10 percent of participants said they felt more confident in their cooking skills, and 11 percent see fewer barriers to making healthy, affordable meals. In the months following the course, participants progressively made more meals at home.
- Families are eating healthier, putting them at lower risk for diet-related diseases. Over the course of six months, families ate more fruits and vegetables. Families also reached for low-sodium options 11 percent more often, low-fat dairy 9 percent more often, and lean protein and whole grains 8 percent more often.
- Families are more confident that they’ll be able to afford enough food. Before taking the course, families sometimes worried that food might run out each month. Six months later, participants reported they rarely worry. Seventeen percent said they were more confident in stretching food dollars due to strategies they learned, like planning meals, shopping with a list and comparing unit prices.
For many low-income families, cooking feels impossible due to time constraints, the perceived expense of healthy foods, and/or the lack of know-how to cook nutritious, tasty meals. No Kid Hungry’s Cooking Matters teaches participants to stretch their food budget, use nutritional information to make healthier choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals for the family.
“[I’m now] walking into the vegetable department and actually looking instead of saying ‘I’m not going to touch that,” said one participant from Maine. “There are a lot of good things out there.”
Since the program was founded in 1993, No Kid Hungry has empowered 369,000 families with cooking and shopping skills through Cooking Matters. In 2016 alone, the goal is to reach over 80,000 families nationally.
“Today, one in five children in the United States doesn’t have the food they need to grow and thrive. Cooking Matters is changing that statistic for families across the country,” said Billy Shore, Founder and CEO, Share Our Strength. “A recent long-term analysis of the program shows it has a powerful and sustainable impact, teaching families how to cook and shop for healthy food on a budget. This type of food resource management is an important component of reducing hunger and food insecurity.”
Research was conducted by the independent health systems research organization Altarum Institute, and looked at 1,600+ study participants, including families taking a Cooking Matters course and a comparison group of families who did not take the course, from April 2014 to March 2015. They were surveyed before the course began, and three and six months after it finished.