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Cooking Matters: A Fresh Approach to Fighting Senior Hunger

A new and exciting opportunity is available for AARP Minnesota Volunteers. For those who are interested in food, nutrition, cooking or hunger issues, the Cooking Matters at the Store program is way to use that passion to help fellow Minnesotans. Volunteers will assist with or lead grocery store tours for older adults on how to buy healthy food and stretch their food budget.

AARP Foundation has partnered wit

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h Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters at the Store program in several states throughout the country this fall. Share Our Strength is a national nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger, with campaigns like “No Kid Hungry”. In Minnesota, the Cooking Matters lead partner is the University of Minnesota Extension. Their Cooking Matters at the Store program offers guided grocery store tours to low income individuals who learn skills to buy and use healthier food, which can often be more expensive than processed and packaged food. The tours focus on four key skills: identifying whole grains, reading food labels, buying fruits and vegetables on a budget and comparing unit prices.

Cooking Matters at the Store tours are interactive, providing a space for participants to learn from each other as well as the tour leader. For example, if one person has never cooked asparagus before, there may be another person on the tour who has a delicious recipe or cooking method they are willing to share with the group. The tour concludes with a $10 challenge, where participants have to use the skills they learned on the tour to make healthy food choices. They are able to bring those groceries home with them, as well as a reusable grocery bag, recipes, and a variety of new skills for next time they go to the grocery store.

A handful of AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) with AARP Foundation are serving as project coordinators for the pilot period of this program this fall throughout many states. AARP Minnesota’s AmeriCorps VISTA member, Molly Johnson, is serving as project coordinator, scheduling and leading tours, as well as coordinating with agencies to recruit participants who will benefit from the tour, with the help of the U of M Extension. So far, several dedicated volunteers have gone through training to assist with and lead tours, but more volunteers are needed to make this program a success. Molly is eager to get more people involved with the tours, and engaged in an effort to make their own communities healthier, one tour at a time.  Contact Molly to find out more about Cooking Matters in Minnesota.

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