As of 2013, thirty-one percent of Weld County children ages 2-14 years were overweight or obese and nearly eighteen percent of kids struggled with food insecurity.* Food insecurity can cause hunger, malnutrition and obesity, creating health and development problems with serious economic repercussions for individuals, families and society.
While 85 percent Colorado’s low-income families rate eating healthy as important and eat from home at least five nights a week, only about half are able to make those meals healthy. Cooking Matters Colorado (CMCO) works to reverse this trend and teach families the skills to make eating healthy, affordable, and delicious.
To further their effectiveness in Weld County, Cooking Matters Colorado formed a collaboration with Weld County Public Health and Environment (WCPHE). Both groups believed that instilling healthy eating habits at a young age would have a positive impact on a child's entire life. Working together, they had some early successes and, in 2016, applied for and received the Community Foundation’s Howard E. Smith Collaborative Grant Program.
The grant was focused on supporting education and skill building efforts in the area of family nutrition and funded program activities which took place between 2016 and 2017. By the end of the grant period, the collaboration provided food skills education to 534 parents, family members, and caregivers who influence the eating habits of low-income children. This includes 413 six-week Cooking Matters course participants who experienced a 14% decrease in how often they worried about running out of food at the end of the month. The program also reached an additional 121 one-time Cooking Matters tour participants.
One participant in the program was particularly excited about her results. She raved, “Thanks to this class, I can include more vegetables on my plate. I also learned easy recipes to use more canned items, which was very important. It made me think about eating better, has instilled more confidence when cooking, and it’s been great that it is free!”
It is worth noting that a key part of the Weld County program included personalized programming for Spanish speakers. CMCO’s two native Spanish-speaking coordinators connected with the Spanish speaking community through shared language and culture. This included migrant workers, whose incomes and other factors are often correlated with food insecurity.
Grant that Funded the Program: The Howard E. Smith Collaborative Grant Program
Funding Amount: $7,000
Program Timeframe: May 2016 to August 2017
Program Results: By learning and practicing the appropriate skills to make eating healthy, affordable, and delicious, Cooking Matters participants have had, and will continue to have, a positive impact on a child’s entire life. In addition to a 14 percent decrease in how often participants found that they worried about running out of food by the end of the month, participants also experienced:
- an 11% increase in consumption of vegetables
- a 7 % increase in consumption of whole grains
- a 15% increase in confidence in adjusting meals to be healthier
- a 5% increase in adjusting meals to be more budget friendly
- a 3% increase in their confidence using basic cooking skills
- an 11% increase in how often they plan meals ahead of time
- a 29% increase in how often they use the Nutrition Facts panel to make food choices.
*Statistic provided by the Weld County Public Health and Environment. Food insecurity is defined as the inability to obtain adequate nutritious food for a healthy life because of insufficient financial resources.