“My favorite part of the year was learning how to cook in Cooking Matters” expressed a 5th grade student at Youthlinks’ at the end of the year closing circle. This was a student who almost did not sign up for the program because he didn’t know how to cook.

Cooking Matters, a program of the Knox County Community Health Coalition is funded by Good Shepard Food Bank. This year Youthlinks’ ran four six-week sessions with middle school students at the Rockland District Middle School.

Cooking Matters is an all-encompassing program that teaches students about food, preparing food, and nutrition. Many of the students were so excited when they learned that they got to work with a real chef. Nancy Wood, the program's real chef is a SNAP Educator for the KCCHC working with families to teach them about cooking and nutrition. Her passion for working with youth and food is inspiring.

Youthlinks collaboration with Cooking Matters would not have been the same without Chef Wood, volunteer Judy Kove Block, and the support of three nutritionists. Cooking Matters does not just teach the students about cooking, it also involves their parents. After every class the students receive a bag of food to take home and the recipe for what was made in class and they are encouraged to prepare the food for their friends and families. The six-week session culminates in an Extreme Food Makeover where they recreate their favorite recipes into healthier ones and invite their parents to a big meal. Each meal was a huge success and yes, the students volunteered to eat kale on their whole wheat pizza.