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Berkshire North WIC Launches New Program
June 20, 2012

For Immediate Release

Berkshire Families at Risk of Hunger Learn that Cooking Matters™: Hands-on Classes Through Berkshire North WIC Teach Families How to Prepare Healthy and Affordable Meals

Fifteen percent of Americans are now living in poverty and nearly one in five children’s families lack the necessary resources to provide the nutritious food they need to thrive. Cooking Matters Massachusetts is a new program being provided locally through Berkshire North WIC and Berkshire County Head Start that empowers local families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make healthy and affordable meals through a six week program, Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™.

Cooking Matters courses are led by local volunteer culinary and nutrition experts who combine hands-on food preparation with practical nutrition, food budgeting and shopping techniques.

When Susan Antil, Director of Berkshire North Women, Infants and Children (WIC) heard about the program, she was excited to volunteer as the culinary instructor. She has successfully combined her experience working with WIC moms and her culinary passion to create an open and inviting atmosphere for the adults that attend, and works with WIC staff members Allyse Wiencek and Michelle Sylvester to provide the program.

“It’s really nice to be able to connect with our WIC parents outside of our office and in this type of positive atmosphere. I love being able to cook with them and share ideas back and forth about healthier ways of feeding families,” said Antil.

Sponsored nationally by the ConAgra Foods® Foundation and Walmart, the program now serves more than 1,000 families per month and in 2010 reached more than 10,000 families across the country. In 2011, over 800 participants graduated from the Cooking Matters program in Massachusetts and in 2012 the program plans to reach over 1200 families. Eighty-seven percent of participants report improving their cooking skills after graduating from a Cooking Matters course.

“Working with Share Our Strength to provide Cooking Matters classes is helping families in our community gain the skills and confidence they need to eat better and meet their budgetary needs,” said Jessica Maillet, Registered Dietitian and Cooking Matters Central/Western MA Manager. “By engaging in this work, we have the ability to evoke sustainable behavior change related to food purchasing and consumption practices at kitchen tables in our region.”

“The recession has impacted families across the country, including those in all of Massachusetts,” said Janet McLaughlin, national director of Cooking Matters. “Cooking Matters Massachusetts is a valuable community resource that helps local families at risk of hunger. Cooking Matters Massachusetts has outstanding chefs, nutritionists, and other community members who volunteer their skills and expertise, and more support is needed to help meet the high demand for these courses.”

“The ConAgra Foods Foundation is committed to enable all children to get the nourishment they need today so that they can flourish tomorrow. We partner with Cooking Matters to give parents and caregivers the tools they need to provide their families with nutritious, enjoyable meals – even when their budgets might be very tight,” said Kori Reed, vice president of Cause and Foundation at ConAgra Foods.

"It’s important for families to learn how to shop and prepare meals that are nutritious and affordable," said Julie Gehrki, senior director at the Walmart Foundation. "We’re proud to support Cooking Matters because it’s helping families learn how to stretch their dollars and eat healthy."


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