Cooking Matters

unsplash cookingHealthy food doesn’t have to break the bank. Families on a tight budget report that the cost of healthy groceries is their biggest barrier to making healthy meals at home. Food skills, like smart shopping, can help overcome that barrier. Cooking Matters at the Store is a free program of the No Kid Hungry campaign that empowers families to stretch their food budgets so their children get healthy meals at home.

Nutrition for the Elderly

We here at Essential Puree also want to bring this same awareness to nutrition for the elderly, whether they are in a home healthcare situation or in healthcare facilities. Seniors with swallowing difficulties or dysphagia related to aging, dementia, Alzheimer’s and strokes (among other causes) need good nutrition. We here in the state of Florida have a demographic that typically includes populations who do not place their seniors in healthcare facilities–African-American and Hispanic. African-Americans account for 17% of Florida’s population. Hispanics account for 23%. This means they are cooking at home.

Millions of American consumer have become more health and environment conscious. The idea of clean eating has become a trend nationwide, even the demand for clean eating at fast food restaurants.  (See the recent article in The New Yorker, “Freedom from Fries.”) There is no reason this cannot apply to the dysphagia kitchen. My personal experience as a caregiver making meals at home convinced me that it is possible to create healthy meals at home for the dysphagia patient in a budget-conscious way, while using ingredients that are nutritious and examples of clean eating. In other words, food skills make the difference. Smart shopping is a must – get a black belt in shopping. Read on to discover how.


Cooking Matters at the Store is based on over 20 years of experience serving low-income families across the country in hands-on cooking courses. Courses typically include a field trip to the grocery store, which always proves to be eye-opening for participants. In 2010, Share Our Strength spun off the grocery store tour into a standalone program, Cooking Matters at the Store. Tours can be led by any individual, in any community, anywhere people shop for food. It includes two specialized curricula – one for adults and one for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) parents. During the 1.5 hour-tour, participants are empowered with four key food skills:

  1. Reading food labels
  2. Comparing unit prices
  3. Finding whole grain foods
  4. Identifying three ways to purchase produce

Cooking Matters at the Store often ends in the $10 Challenge, an activity where participants use the skills they’ve just learned to buy a healthy meal for a family of four, for under $10. Participants take home a booklet with recipes and shopping tips, a reusable grocery bag, and $10 worth of healthy groceries. Learn more about leading a Cooking Matters at the Store tour