Feature Story

July 12, 2017 | By Ohio Wesleyan University

Ohio Wesleyan students Carlos Jackson '17 (left) and Patrick Puracchio '18 help teach a Cooking Matters class. The program works to address community food insecurity issues. (Photo by Spenser Hickey ’15)

Cooking Matters

Ohio Wesleyan Promotes Healthier Living through National Program

Ohio Wesleyan University’s Department of Health and Human Kinetics (HHK) has earned a United Way of Delaware County Hunger Alliance Collective Impact Award for its Cooking Matters community education program.

Ohio Wesleyan faculty member Christopher Fink, Ph.D., and his HHK students first brought the national Cooking Matters program to Delaware in 2014, when they began teaching local families experiencing food insecurity how to plan and cook healthy meals on a budget.

For their work, the Ohio Wesleyan group has earned a $16,860 United Way grant that will allow them to expand the program to include shorter “pop-up” events along with more traditional classes. The funds also will cover the cost of a year’s worth of food and supplies, as well as support five student internships to help add year-round consistency and quality to the program.

Students who assist with Cooking Matters “have the opportunity to administer, deliver, and assess a community health promotion program aimed at reducing health disparities,” said Fink, a member of the Ohio Wesleyan faculty since 2007.

“We think that this ‘brings to life’ many of the theoretical concepts that are introduced in our courses, and provides the students with an opportunity to better understand the complexities and challenges in promoting a health-enhancing diet,” he said.

Students in Ohio Wesleyan’s Health and Human Kinetics program typically are preparing for advanced study or careers in fitness and wellness, public health, sports management, health promotion, or other related areas, and in allied health professions such as nursing, physical therapy, or occupational therapy.

Chris FInk
OWU faculty member Christopher Fink helps with the local Cooking Matters program.

Sara Scinto ’16 began working with Cooking Matters in 2014 and still is involved, working this summer to deliver pop-up classes and other events for the program.

“Being involved with Cooking Matters has been extremely rewarding and worthwhile,” said Scinto, now a graduate student in the Nutrition Interventions, Communication, and Behavior Change program at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

“(Cooking Matters) has shown me that a positive difference can be made in a population’s food security and wellness within just a few weeks,” said Scinto, a biochemistry major at Ohio Wesleyan.

“During my time as an instructor, I was able to combine my own expertise in nutrition and biochemistry with the lesson plans provided in the Cooking Matters curricula to convey important health information,” she said. “As course coordinator, I gained valuable experience in program administration and organization.

“I enjoyed it so much that I decided to change career paths by pursuing further schooling in community nutrition and food education,” Scinto continued. “It was an extremely impactful part of my OWU experience and one that will define the rest of my life.”

On the national level, Cooking Matters is overseen by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Share Our Strength as part of the No Kid Hungry initiative. Locally, Cooking Matters is part of the Delaware County Hunger Alliance, which brings together several groups interested in addressing issues of food insecurity.