Cooking Matters

18 Reasons shares our culinary skills, nutrition knowledge, and love of home cooking through our Cooking Matters series, which are free cooking and nutrition classes and grocery donations for low-income Bay Area families. Each year, we teach thousands of families how to buy, cook, and eat good food on a tight budget.

Cooking Matters is a 6-week series of classes that pair hands-on cooking practice with culturally appropriate nutrition discussions and healthy grocery donations. The food skills education we provide allows food-insecure households to tap into their ingenuity and make the best possible use of their food resources. Cooking Matters classes are facilitated by peer health educators and volunteers passionate about sharing their love of healthy home cooking. Cooking Matters supports our vision to create more equity and belonging through food education.

We are proud to be providing more than 16,500 lbs. of fresh, healthy food each month for our community. If you'd like to support our Cooking Matters and food distribution programs, you can make a donation hereYour generosity fuels our mission. 

We currently offer both in-person and online classes, to learn more about volunteering or becoming a host site, please visit the links below:

Peer Health Educators

Peer Health Educators (PHE) are crucial members of the 18 Reasons team and are at the heart of our work. They are passionate community leaders who believe in the transformative and healing power of home cooking. 

Our Peer Health Educator program aims to increase the recruitment and retention rates within our Community Programs by training community leaders who are deeply connected to their communities. We believe in the Peer Health Educator program as a way of strengthening our connection with communities and furthering the impact of the nutrition, budgeting, and cooking information that we provide. 

Trained Peer Health Educators instruct over 75% of our Community Programs classes. In Cooking Matters classes (evidence-based cooking and nutrition classes paired with grocery donations offered for free to low-income Bay Area families), they serve as Cooking Educators and Nutrition Educators. They work together with other community leaders and service agencies to support their peers and neighbors. 

Peer Health Educators come to us as students in Cooking Matters classes. Inspired by their desire to improve the health of their community, they continue their journey, furthering their knowledge and experience through a 9-session training. This training, led by 18 Reasons staff members and experienced Cooking Matters teachers, covers cooking, nutrition, and classroom facilitation. PHE who successfully complete the training go on to teach Cooking Matters classes, lead Cooking Matters Market Tours, and facilitate other Community Programs within their communities. We support their growth as leaders who empower their community to buy, cook, and eat good food every day. 

As former Cooking Matters students, PHE are relatable and share similar backgrounds and demographics to our students. PHE can connect effectively with our participants because they share a linguistic and cultural background, ensuring that our teachers and participants have shared experiences to draw from in class. Additionally, Peer Health Educators often have personal connections with organizations and individuals interested in participating in Cooking Matters programming.

Special thanks to our funding partners

Share Our Strength
The CA Department of Food & Agriculture
The San Francisco Department of Public Health
The City of Oakland Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax Fund
The California Wellness Foundation
Kaiser Permanente
The Healthy Berkeley Program
Contra Costa Health Services
UC Davis School of Medicine
The UCSF Culinary Medicine Program
The Bella Vista Foundation
No Kid Hungry
The UNFI Foundation
The Irving Foundation
The Trio Foundation
The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation
The Clif Bar Family Foundation
The Junior League of Oakland-East Bay
The Safeway Foundation
The Bay Area Dietetics Association