You’ll be making a positive impact on your community and helping with Share Our Strength’s mission to end childhood hunger in America. You'll be empowering low-income families with the skills to stretch their food budgets so their children get healthier meals at home. You can also make new connections and friends in the culinary and nutrition fields, and improve your public speaking and teaching skills. Furthermore, if you instruct 15 courses, you’ll be inducted into our national Volunteer Hall of Fame—quite an honor for our most-dedicated volunteers!
Cooking Matters offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to give everyone the chance to get involved, no matter your experience or schedule.
Choosing the right volunteer opportunity depends upon your commitment and availability, in addition to interest and experience.
Six-week courses – Courses are held at community agencies already serving low-income families, such as schools, food pantries and health clinics. Six-week courses are typically scheduled Monday through Friday between 9:00am and 8:00pm. The time commitment for culinary instructors, nutrition instructors, and class assistants is approximately four hours a week for six consecutive weeks (this includes lesson preparation and travel time). Instructors are also expected to review instructor guides before class and come to class prepared to lead the lesson for that week.
Cooking Matters at the Store Tours –Tours are held either at grocery stores or on-site at community agencies such as food pantries or health fairs. Tours may happen any day of the week, typically between 9:00am and 6:00pm. Both guided and event-style tours are offered, and volunteer commitment depends on the length of each tour (anywhere from 90 minutes to 6 hours). Tour facilitators are encouraged to complete an additional online training before leading tours.
Cooking Matters for Childcare Professionals - Trainings are offered for in-home and small center-based care providers. Trainings are one-day offerings, typically from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Time commitment for volunteers is approximately 8-10 hours. Instructors are also expected to review instructor guides before class and come to class prepared to lead the lessons.
Additional volunteer opportunities – Many of our non-course or tour volunteer opportunities are activities that range from fundraising events to contacting elected officials to organizing food and utensil drives. These can be tailored to your availability. Non-course opportunities support us in important ways and offer volunteers a chance to support Cooking Matters with a time commitment that works with their schedules. Learn more about additional volunteer opportunities.
Culinary Instructor – If you are proficient in knife skills, basic cooking techniques, kitchen safety/sanitation, and basic ingredient substitutions, you may be a good fit! Culinary school or two years of industry experience is preferred but not required. To qualify, you should be able to successfully and comfortably teach basic cooking skills and techniques to our participants. If you’re a current culinary student or avid home cook, you’re welcome to volunteer; however, you may find that volunteering as the class assistant before taking the lead instructor role may be beneficial.
Nutrition Instructor-- Our nutrition instructors usually have formal nutrition education or are nutrition professionals. Registered Dietitians are preferred, but not required. Some are current nutrition students; some are graduates who may not be currently working in the field. You should be able to successfully and comfortably teach nutrition lessons based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines in a shared group setting. If you’re an undergraduate nutrition student, you are welcome to volunteer, but you may find that volunteering as a class assistant first may be beneficial before taking the role as lead Nutrition instructor.
Class Assistant— There is no specific experience needed to be a successful class assistant. If you have an interest in food, nutrition, healthy living, and ending childhood hunger but don’t want to jump into the lead instructor role, being an assistant may be the right role for you! The class assistant provides support to the lead instructors, such as an extra pair of hands during class or helping with set-up and clean-up. The assistant is not expected to provide cooking or nutrition information, but this role can also provide an aspiring culinary or nutrition instructor with the opportunity to experience our programming before determining if the lead instructor role would be suitable.
Shopper—Shoppers help out by purchasing the groceries we use at our Cooking Matters classes (funded by Cooking Matters). This is a great option for volunteers who perhaps want to get involved but don't have an extra 3 hours each week. Great grocery store navigation skills are a big plus!
Interpreter— Interpreters can help translate for the educators, participants, and course coordinators when necessary. We offer classes in English and Spanish, and love nutrition and culinary instructors who can teach in those languages as well.
Cooking Matters at the Store Tour Facilitators—Cooking Matters at the Store Tour facilitators and assistants lead interactive, guided grocery store tours that help participants learn to maximize their food resources in a healthy way. Potential tour leaders include anyone who is interested in helping low-income families and has a passion for food and nutrition. No special skills are required, but a nutrition background is a plus, as is a love of the grocery store!
To start volunteering, RSVP for a New Volunteer Training by visiting our Volunteer and Event Calendar --> Narrow search to yellow "Trainings" category --> sign up for a training.
Denver Metro trainings occur 2-3 times per month and last 2 hours. Live outside the Denver area? Training frequency and format may vary. Feel free to contact your local coordinator using the Contact Us page or by emailing Becky Mares at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your time: For a six-week course, expect to spend 3-4 hours per week and for a childcare professionals training, expect to spend 8-12 hours in one day. Time commitment for Cooking Matters at the Store tours and Special Events vary by event. We ask that volunteers commit to all lessons in a series to build relationships with participants and provide consistency in instruction. All volunteers are expected to communicate with our staff as quickly as possible if you are unable to fulfill your cousre or tour commitment. Please also be available by email or phone to help prepare for your opportunity and to read through lesson plans before courses or tours.
Your skills: Volunteers should have the ability to work well on a team; be flexible; be comfortable working with people from diverse backgrounds; and have basic public speaking skills. Teaching experience and a sense of humor are added bonuses!
Lessons plans: We provide lessons plans or talking points for you for every class and tour. The national Cooking Matters staff has developed curricula for all volunteer instructors and course participants. Nutrition content is based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines. Recipes use accessible, low-cost, nutritious ingredients and have been cost- and nutrition-analyzed. As a culinary and nutrition instructor, you’ll get an instructor guide that includes lesson plans, activities, handouts, and recipes for each week. As a Cooking Matters at the Store volunteer, you'll get a facilitator flipbook or a sheet of talking points.
Your knowledge: In addition to our lesson plans, bring your own knowledge and experience to share with the participants! We love that our volunteers are passionate about food and nutrition! However, many of our participants are just beginning to think about making healthier food and nutrition choices, so it's not the space to go into depth about vegetarianism, organic or local food, etc. Share your passions and healthy eating tips in a way that invites discussion and is sensitive to different perspectives. All nutrition lessons are based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines, and all class recipes use readily-accessible and affordable ingredients.
Courses and tours are held in a variety of different locations at a variety of different times. Cooking Matters partners with community-based organizations that serve low-income populations. These community partners recruit the participants and provide the course space. Take a look at where we offer courses here. If you don’t see programming in your area, send us an email at email@example.com – we are continuing to expand our programming into new locations and would always love new support!
Cooking Matters courses and tours are for low-income participants. They include parents, adults, families and caregivers of low-income children. Many participants receive SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) and may access programs like WIC or local food pantries. They come to the table with a variety of views, beliefs, and experience, so presenting your ideas with sensitivity is always important. Participants may not always speak English, in which case an interpreter would be present.
Courses have a culinary instructor, a nutrition instructor, an assistant, and a staff coordinator. Tours have a staff coordinator and 1-10 volunteer facilitators and assistants. The staff coordinator acts as a support resource for the volunteers, serves as a liaison between Cooking Matters at the host organization, helps ensure classes and tours run smoothly and on time, and brings all necessary kitchen equipment, ingredients, handouts, and materials based on instructor and participant needs.