Cooking Matters to the PTA

Reposted from No Kid Hungry blog.

NoKid_Hungry_Blog_RepostI thought I was pretty savvy about shopping and food nutrition until I took a Cooking Matters at the Store tour recently. Cooking Matters at the Store is a free program of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign that empowers families to stretch their food budgets so their children get healthy meals at home. The grocery store was in the historic district of Alexandria, Virginia, but the rush of learning something important and valuable could happen anywhere.

I just happened to be with ten folks from PTAs across the US with different tastes and eating habits, family sizes and configurations. We were in Alexandria for a retreat, working out ideas and strategies for the PTA’s Urban Family Engagement Network to encourage urban families to get more involved in local public schools. Given the connection between proper nutrition, overall health and academic achievement, the idea of better nutrition is a natural for parents and the PTA.

For our tour, we started in the produce aisle, looking beyond the colorful fruit and veggies to the unit price stickers. Never mind the price of the item itself, for comparison sake you need to check out the unit price. Our assignment was to choose a favorite vegetable or fruit and make note of its per unit price and then we were off to the frozen food section and later canned foods section to compare unit costs and debate the pros and cons – taste-wise, convenience-wise and price-wise – of the choices. And finally a trip to the bread aisle for eye-opening lessons on whole grain (wheat, oat, etc.) versus unbleached, refined flours and lessons on the many ways that food manufacturers color and flavor foods to achieve the faddish health look so many of us want now without the real nutrition we need.

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. I can easily see Cooking Matters at the Store as a valuable strategy to encourage healthier eating. The PTA at my son’s school is already looking for strategies to introduce ideas for healthy eating now that the public schools are removing less nutritious meals and snacks from the schools.

To learn more about Cooking Matters at the Store and get your PTA, school, or community organization involved, visit

Vanessa Ford Bush is the  Chicago team leader for the Urban Family Engagement Network of the National PTA.

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