SFA senior Zackary Hughes prepares a meal

Zackary Hughes, an SFA senior dietetics and nutritional sciences major from Mansfield, prepares a meal during a segment of the Cooking Matters class.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– After a hiatus due to COVID-19, students in Stephen F. Austin State University’s School of Human Sciences concluded their sixth Cooking Matters program Monday with a “Jeopardy”-style nutrition game, a potluck and graduation ceremony.

During the six-week collaboration with the East Texas Food Bank, SFA students enrolled in Justin Pelham’s community nutrition class worked with Nacogdoches community members to educate them on healthy eating habits and budgeting.

“This class provides application from classroom content and theory to the real-world,” said Pelham, SFA food, nutrition and dietetics clinical instructor. “Students get to interact with local community members and help provide essential nutrition education and basic cooking skills to the participants.”

Each Cooking Matters segment comprised a nutrition education portion followed by a cooking segment. Throughout the program, student instructors completed four different roles ranging from chef instructors and nutrition educators to clean-up crew and grocery shoppers.

“I learned that people really are interested in nutrition,” said Traci Houston, senior nutrition and dietetics major from New Orleans. “People want to learn about how to live a better life, how nutrition impacts them and what quality of life they can have based on what they eat.”

According to Pelham, roughly one-in-three people in Nacogdoches live poverty, making the program even more important for the community. SFA students recruited participants utilizing assistance from the Helping Other People Eat Pantry, which provides supplemental food to Nacogdoches County residents in need. This year, 11 community members graduated from Cooking Matters.

Throughout the program, participants learned how to prepare healthy meals, including turkey tacos, Chinese veggies and rice, and black-eyed peas and rice.

Pelham said the Cooking Matters program will be offered again next fall.

For more information on the SFA food and nutrition, and dietetics and nutritional sciences programs, visit sfasu.edu/hms.