NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Cooking Matters, a six-week community nutrition program hosted by Stephen F. Austin State University’s School of Human Sciences, kicks off its seventh year Monday, Sept. 19.

Cooking Matters will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. each Monday through Oct. 24 in the Human Sciences Building North. Through the Helping Other People Eat nonprofit food pantry, which provides supplemental food to those in need, program organizers have looked for participants from underserved areas in the Nacogdoches community.

The goal of Cooking Matters is for SFA students in the James I. Perkins College of Education to receive real-world experience by teaching people healthy eating habits and budgeting. Each class has a nutrition education component followed by a cooking segment. Last year, 11 people graduated from the program.

According to Justin Pelham, SFA food, nutrition and dietetics clinical instructor, roughly one in three people within the city of Nacogdoches live in poverty, making the program important for the community and students. Citing the U.S. Census Bureau, Pelham said the area around the pantry has the highest poverty rate in East Texas, exceeding 50%.

“This transformational experience for SFA students will really provide insight into an audience who will benefit from nutrition education and basic cooking skills due to limited resources,” Pelham said.  

Each Cooking Matters class allows for up to 20 participants. At the conclusion of each lesson, they receive a free bag of groceries so they can replicate the meal at home with their family and friends.

Before this year’s launch, guest speaker Kinsey Thompson, the nutrition education program manager at the East Texas Food Bank, gave students a general overview of her organization and the cooking program.

For more information on SFA’s food and nutrition program and dietetics and nutritional sciences program, visit