SFA students with faculty and staff members in a grocery store

During a grocery store tour, Stephen F. Austin State University students educate faculty and staff members on nutrition as part of the Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters Program. Through this six-week program, SFA students give lectures and cooking demonstrations to participants.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — For several Stephen F. Austin State University students and faculty and staff members, cooking matters.

During the past six weeks, Justin Pelham, food, nutrition and dietetics clinical instructor at SFA, and students in his community nutrition courses have educated university faculty and staff members on nutrition and cooking healthy food on a budget through the Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program.

“As part of the No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America, Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters teaches participants to shop smarter, use nutrition information to make healthier choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals,” according to cookingmatters.org.

This is the third year SFA community nutrition classes have partnered with the East Texas Food Bank to provide this program. This year, the program was open to SFA faculty and staff members, and Pelham said there was a waiting list. Also, the class partnered with SFA Campus Recreation’s Employee Wellness program.

“This event has been a tremendous success with our participants,” Pelham said. “They have enjoyed working with our community nutrition students and praising them for sharing their passion and knowledge on nutrition-focused topics in conjunction with healthy cooking.”

Twenty faculty and staff members participated this year.

“I feel like there is always a new fad with nutrition, but it’s great to get the facts from people who study and research these items,” said Samantha Mora, director of alumni events and engagement and Cooking Matters participant. “I enjoyed trying new, healthier foods I normally wouldn’t make or try on my own.”

During the first four weeks, students gave an hour lecture and cooking demonstration at each class. The fifth week, students gave participants a tour of a local grocery store, and the final class served as a potluck and graduation.

“The grocery store tour reinforces the first four weeks of nutrition education classes and cooking demonstrations,” Pelham said. “This provides application for participants to walk around the store and discuss various topics such as reading nutrition labels, price comparison and the store design for marketing.”

Pelham explained the Cooking Matters program is beneficial for students and participants. Since this is used as a class project, students apply their skills learned in the classroom to a real-world situation.

“Both students and participants find this event an enriching learning experience with real-world skills being implemented in a community nutrition focused environment,” Pelham said.