You’ll be making a positive impact on your community and helping with Share Our Strength’s mission to end childhood hunger in America by empowering low-income families with the skills to stretch their food budgets so their children get healthy meals at home. You can also make new connections and friends in the culinary and nutrition fields and improve your public speaking and teaching skills. Furthermore, if you instruct 15 courses, you’ll be inducted into our Volunteer Hall of Fame at the annual Share Our Strength Conference of Leaders in Washington, DC—quite an honor for our most-dedicated volunteers!
What volunteer opportunity is right for me?
Cooking Matters offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to give everyone the chance to get involved, no matter your experience or schedule.
Choosing the right volunteer opportunity depends upon your commitment and availability, in addition to interest and experience.
Six week courses – Courses are held at community partners across the state and are scheduled Monday through Thursday between 9:00am and 8:00pm. Culinary instructors, nutrition instructors, and course assistance meet for three hours a week for six weeks. Instructors are also expected to review instructor guides before class and have lessons prepared.
Cooking Matters at the Store Facilitators –Facilitators must complete an additional online training before leading tours. Tours are held at grocery stores across the state and may be scheduled Monday through Saturday and last between 1-1.5 hours.
Additional volunteer opportunities – Many of our non-course volunteer opportunities are activities that range from contacting elected officials to organizing utensil drives and can be tailored to your availability. Non-course opportunities support us in important ways and offer volunteers a chance to support Cooking Matters with a time commitment that works with their schedule. Learn more about additional volunteer opportunities.
What volunteer programming role is right for me?
Culinary Instructor – If you’ve worked in the culinary industry and/or attended culinary school, are proficient in knife skills, basic cooking techniques, kitchen safety/sanitation, and basic ingredient substitutions, you’d be a good fit! You should be able to successfully and comfortably teach basic cooking skills and techniques to our participants. If you’re a current culinary student or avid home cook, you’re welcomed to volunteer, however you may find that filling in as the course assistant before taking the lead instructor role may be beneficial. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Nutrition Instructor-- Our nutrition instructors have education in nutrition, are Registered Dieticians, nutrition professionals, and nutrition students, past and present. You should be able to successfully and comfortably teach nutrition lessons based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines in a shared group setting. If you’re an undergraduate nutrition student, you are welcome to volunteer but may find that volunteering as a course assistant first may be beneficial before taking the role as lead Nutrition instructor. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Assistant— There is no specific training or experience needed to be a successful course assistant. If you have an interest in food, nutrition, healthy living, and putting an end to childhood hunger but don’t want to jump into the instructor role (at least not yet), being a Course Assistant is the right role for you! The course assistant provides support to the lead instructors: an extra pair of hands during class, helping set-up and clean-up. The assistant is not expected to provide cooking or nutrition information, but this role can also provide an aspiring culinary or nutrition instructor with the opportunity to experience the 6-week course before determining if the lead instructor role would be suitable. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Shopper—Shoppers help out by purchasing the groceries we use at our Cooking Matters classes (funded by Cooking Matters). This is a great option for volunteers with less time and good skills at the store. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Interpreter— Interpreters can help translate for the educators, participants, and class coordinator when necessary. We offer classes in Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin and love nutrition and culinary instructors who can teach in those languages as well. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Cooking Matters at the Store Facilitator—Cooking Matters at the Store Facilitators lead interactive, guided grocery store tours that help participants learn to make the most of their food resources in a healthy way. Potential facilitators include anyone who is interested in helping low-income families and has a passion for food and nutrition, no special skills are required. To get started volunteering come to a training.
How do I start volunteering?
Attend a New Volunteer Training! Take a look at our online calendar and find a training date and location that works for you. Trainings last about 2 hours and are held at least once a month. If the dates, times, or locations on our calendar are not convenient, let us know and we can arrange something else. To attend a training, email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.
How do I start volunteering as a Cooking Matters at the Store facilitator?
To lead a Cooking Matters at the Store tour, you can complete an online training through the Cooking Matters at the Store Learning Space. We strongly encourage coming to New Volunteer Training as well to learn more context and voice your questions and concerns. Email email@example.com to RSVP to a training or to get access to the Learning Space.
What is expected of me as a volunteer?
Your time: For a six week course expect to spend 3-4 hours per week. (2 hours of class time, 30 minutes before and after for set-up and clean-up, and maybe an hour of prep)
Your preparation: We ask our volunteers to communicate via email to help plan for class and to read through the lesson plans before class.
Your skills: Volunteers should come with an ability to work well on a team, comfort working with people from diverse backgrounds, basic public speaking abilities, flexibility, and good improvisation skills. Teaching experience is an added bonus!
What will I be teaching?
Lessons plans: We provide lessons plans for you for every class. The national Cooking Matters staff has developed curricula for all volunteer instructors and course participants. Nutrition content is based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines; recipes use accessible, low-cost, nutritious ingredients and have been cost- and nutrition-analyzed. As a culinary and nutrition instructor, you’ll get an instructor guide that includes lesson plans, activities, handouts, and recipes for each week.
Your knowledge: In addition to our lesson plans, bring your own knowledge and experience to share with the participants! We love that our volunteers are passionate about food and nutrition, however, many of our participants are just beginning to think about making healthier food and nutrition choices, so don’t overload them with your ideas about vegetarianism, organic or local food, etc. Share your passions and healthy eating tips in a way that invites discussion and is sensitive to different perspectives. All nutrition lessons are based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines, and all class recipes use readily-accessible and affordable ingredients.
Where and when are courses held?
Courses are held in a variety of different locations at a variety of different times. Cooking Matters partners with non-profit, community-based organizations serving low-income populations, who recruit the participants and provide the course space. Take a look at where we offer courses here and see our upcoming scheduled courses here. If you don’t see courses in your area, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we are continuing to expand our programming into new locations and would always love new support!
Who are the participants in a Cooking Matters class?
Cooking Matters courses are for low-income participants. They include adults, families, teens, and children. Many participants receive SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) and may access programs like WIC or local food pantries. They come to class with a variety of views, beliefs, and experience, so presenting your ideas with sensitivity is always important. Participants may not always speak English, in which case a translator would be present.
Who is present at each Cooking Matters course?
A culinary instructor, a nutrition instructor, an assistant, and a staff coordinator. The staff coordinator acts as a support resource for the volunteers, serves as a liaison between Cooking Matters at the host organization, helps ensure classes run smoothly and on time, and brings all necessary kitchen equipment, ingredients, handouts, and class materials based on instructor and class needs.