Volunteer with Cooking Matters

18 Reasons offers free hands-on cooking and nutrition 6-week series to food-insecure Bay Area communities through our Cooking Matters program. We work in partnership with various community sites and schools and provide the program to kids, teens, adults, and families. The classes are facilitated by a teaching team of an 18 Reasons staff member and volunteers as the cooking, nutrition, and class assistants for the series. Volunteers are an essential part of our organization! Active volunteers, hit the green button below. New volunteers, scroll down to learn more!

New Volunteers: Process and Roles

We have volunteer opportunities available for community-minded helpers passionate about sharing their love of good food, home-cooking, and supporting our vision of creating more equity and belonging through food education. There is no professional experience required to volunteer to teach a Cooking Matters series. We accept volunteers on a rolling basis, and all roles are in person.

Cooking Educator (In-Person) 
You are a cooking enthusiast! No professional experience required, just a love of sharing home-cooking and food. During class, you will lead highly participatory cooking lessons featuring simple, healthy recipes. You will demonstrate and practice basic cooking techniques and terminology, proper knife handling, and food safety and sanitation measures. You will work with the 18 Reasons Program Coordinator and class participants to select recipes for class each week. The coordinator brings the curriculum, food, and cooking equipment — no need to bring anything other than yourself and the instructor manual 18 Reasons will provide you. 

Nutrition Educator (In-Person) 
You do not need to have a professional background as a nutritionist or dietitian to succeed in this role — you just need a love of healthy eating and an eagerness to help others. Some of our nutritionist volunteers do have a background in nutrition, food science, dietetics, or a related field, but it is not required. Class topics include using MyPlate as a tool for healthy eating, planning balanced meals, eating healthier fats, food budgeting, serving sizes, reading nutrition labels, and physical activity. The classes are intended to be interactive, and the nutrition educator facilitates open-minded conversation in class using activities, lesson plans, and visual aids provided by 18 Reasons. 

Class Assistant (In-Person) 
Class assistants primarily help the teaching team with student engagement, classroom set-up, food preparation, and cleaning up. Class assistants support the cooking and nutrition volunteer and interact with students to help support their learning. Common class assistant duties include packing groceries for participants to take home, loading/unloading kitchen equipment, and washing dishes. 

Class Shadow (In-Person) 
New volunteers must shadow for 1 class within a series before committing to one of the above roles. Shadowing a class provides an opportunity for both parties (you and 18 Reasons) to see if it's a fit. While shadowing you may decide which role you want to commit to for a future series. It's okay to try different roles in different series!

Get started as a new volunteer

1. Fill out our volunteer registration form

2. Complete the self-led volunteer trainings / curriculum and complete volunteer requirements. These will be emailed to you after registration is complete. Visit Training and Requirements page. On average this process takes 2 hours.

3. Sign up to shadow a Cooking Matters class in series. Shadowing is a one time commitment to feel things out. 

4. After shadowing a class, sign up for a role (Cooking Educator, Nutrition Educator, Class Assistant) in another series

Time Commitment

  • Classes meet once a week for six weeks and we ask that volunteers are able to commit to a full 6 week series.
  • Classes are held anytime between 9:00am and 8:00pm, Tuesday-Friday. 
  • Each week, Cooking Matters classes require a time commitment of class time, plus 30 minutes of prep time before class, and up to 30 minutes of clean-up after class (so that's 3 hours per week). 
  • In addition, communication (via email) with the Cooking Matters Program Coordinator about class scheduling, curriculum, etc. is expected.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to contribute to all aspects of the class, including set-up, clean-up, and food preparation.

Volunteer Benefits

Cook It Forward Program

We love our volunteers! In addition to creating and empowering community through food, volunteers receive a complimentary 18 Reasons membership, one meal per class, training and coaching, and are invited to volunteer appreciation celebrations! Volunteers earn a complimentary ticket to their choice of 18th Street Kitchen class after volunteering for 3 Cooking Matters series a 12 month period. We ask that volunteers keep track of their class quantity.

Volunteer Testimonials

"I had not looked at "My Plate" lately, but thanks to 18 Reasons, I now see it with a food justice lens. I also picked up some cool new recipes, including how to make dumplings! Meeting a very diverse group of people in class and on the team was the best of all." 

"I learned that just as diverse ingredients create rich and fulfilling meals, diverse experiences enrich our Bay Area community! I've learned so much from all the Cooking Matters participants that have attributed to my becoming a better cook and community member."

"As a retired teacher, it's great to be in the classroom again but in a low stress way. I've met some really lovely people. I would absolutely recommend volunteering with Cooking Matters. Your spirit will be elevated!"

"I have felt really valued as a volunteer. We are an equal part of the team and given latitude to use our skills. I've also seen the direct benefit of our work in the communities we serve. One person in particular comes to mind as he reported his A1C levels had improved as he learned to cook better for himself."

"Food brings people together and this was a fantastic way to get to know a community that is really close to me in an intimate way. I appreciated how vulnerable participants were in being honest in their opinions and understanding. Volunteering with Cooking Matters reiterated how sharing a few simple tricks for preparing produce can open a whole new world for the participants and myself!"

"If you are passionate about food and nutrition and want to connect with others over the shared experience of cooking, learning and nourishing, I would highly recommend volunteering with Cooking Matters."


Email cookingmattersvolunteers@gmail.com with any questions. 

If you need support around transportation, please reach out.