Cooking Matters is helping end childhood hunger by inspiring families to make healthy food choices. Our programs help parents and caregivers struggling with limited food budgets learn how to shop for and cook healthy, affordable meals.
As a result of our program:
83% of parents and caregivers report readiness to adopt healthier, budget-saving shopping techniques
68% of WIC parents reported the ability to maximize their benefits toward the purchase of fruits and vegetables
Cooking Matters: A Long Term Impact Evaluation
In 2014, Share Our Strength engaged Altarum Institute to conduct the first national, long-term Course Impact Evaluation that concluded in 2015. This quasi-experimental study had more than 1,600 participants, including adult participants who took a course and a comparison group who did not take the course. The study participants were surveyed before the course began, and 3 and 6 months after it finished. In addition to the 3 and 6-month follow up surveys, Altarum conducted focus groups with Cooking Matters participants to provide context for participant experiences and successes. The national long-term evaluation demonstrated that the six-week cooking, shopping and nutrition course has a powerful, sustained impact that is significantly greater than changes that would have occurred without an intervention. Cooking Matters changes families in a few key ways.
After the study, participants are:
- More confident in their cooking abilities and see fewer barriers to making healthy, affordable meals.
- Making are healthier and more budget-friendly, even six months after they finish the course.
- Eating more vegetables, including non-fried options and green salad.
- Families reach for low-sodium options 11% more often, low-fat dairy 9% more often, and lean protein and whole grains 8% more often.
- More confident that they will be able to afford enough food.
- Before the course, families “sometimes” worried that food might run out each month; six months later, they “rarely” worried about this.
- 17% more confident that they can stretch their food dollars
For more information, read the Long Term Impact Evaluation report.
Tour Program Evaluation
Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters campaign's program, Cooking Matters at the Store, empowers low-income families to stretch their food dollars so their children can get healthy meals at home. Share Our Strength engaged Altarum Institute, an independent health systems research organization, to conduct a two-part evaluation of the program in early 2013. The goal of the Cooking Matters at the Store evaluation was to assess the implementation and impact of this interactive shopping tour for low-income families. The Altarum evaluation assessed the effectiveness of program implementation through observation of actual tours, interviews with tour facilitators and focus groups with participants. A further assessment of the tour impact on participant attitudes and shopping behaviors was conducted using a combination of questionnaires before and after tour participation as well as the collection and analysis of grocery shopping receipts.
For more information, download the full Cooking Matters at the Store Evaluation report.
It’s Dinnertime Report
Assumptions are rampant about the dining habits of low-income Americans, including that they are frequent consumers of fast food and that they do not eat together often as a family or prioritize healthy eating. To gain insights into the cooking and shopping habits of low-income Americans, Share Our Strength enlisted APCO Insight to conduct a national survey of 1,500 low to middle-income families in the United States. Through It’s Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families’ Efforts to Plan, Shop for, and Cook Healthy Meals, we learn that low-income families are cooking dinner at home, mostly from scratch, and are highly interested in making healthy meals. The perceived cost of healthy items is a barrier, which can be overcome through the adoption of strategic shopping and cooking skills, such as those taught by Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters. Some highlights include:
- Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters helps families plan, shop for and cook healthy meals with documented success. After Cooking Matters for Adults, the average graduate plans meals ahead of time 55% more often and shops with a grocery list 50% more often. At the grocery store, a Cooking Matters graduate compares prices 38% more often. Graduates are able to make their food money last longer, running out of food 20% less often.
- Eight in 10 families make dinner at home at least five times a week. Most of the time, low-income families are cooking dinners at home from scratch. They are using easy-to-prepare packaged foods on other nights.
- Eighty-five percent of respondents say that eating healthy meals is important to their families, and 78% are interested in learning more about cooking healthy meals that taste good.
- Families view cost as the primary barrier to healthy eating. Although families are largely satisfied with the variety (61%) and quality (64%) of healthy grocery items available to them, only 30% are satisfied with price.
- Eighty-five percent of families skip healthy purchases at the grocery store because of price and fresh produce is passed over most often. Fresh produce is rated extremely healthy by 81% of respondents, but that rating drops down to 32% when it comes to frozen fruits and vegetables and 12% with canned fruits and vegetables.
- Low-income families that regularly plan meals, write grocery lists and budget for food make healthy meals from scratch more often (5+ times a week) than those who don’t. Unfortunately, 55% of families do not regularly plan meals before going to the store, and 34% do not regularly use a written grocery list.
- One in 2 families are extremely interested in learning more about cooking healthy meals, and 2 in 3 families are interested in how to better budget their money for meals.