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Curriculum Overview: Cooking Matters (CM)


Cooking Matters (CM) is a series of 6 consecutive lessons that teach low-income adults, families, parents, kids, or teens to “shop smarter,” make healthier food choices using nutrition information, and cook affordable meals. Lesson objectives for each lesson can be found in the Instructor Guide.

Theoretical framework

Cooking Matters courses are hands-on, skill-based and participatory and designed to “increase self-efficacy among participants, thereby enabling positive behavior change.” For more on the research and framework, review No Kid Hungry: Cooking Matters.

Setting & target audience

Setting for this curricula requires ample space for participants to cook together. Hot water must be available with an appropriate place to wash hands. It is recommended that there is access to a refrigerator and a stove.

Target audience includes adults, including seniors and parents.

Number and duration of lessons

Lessons must be taught in order and all 6 lessons must be completed. Each lesson is divided into sections and  all sections of each lesson must be completed. Two hours are required for the completion of each lesson.

Recommended pacing

Classes are scheduled once a week for 6 weeks.

Instructional order & strategies

Cooking Matters class series are based on key messages. They are:

  • My Plate
  • Choose whole grains as often as you can
  • Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Choosing lower fat options
  • Choose drinks with less sugar or make your own.
  • Make your own healthy snacks at home.

  • Choose lean and low-fat proteins
  • Reducing sodium consumption by using spices
  • The importance of eating breakfast every day
  • Exercise
  • Food Safety

Families-Cooking Matters
Lesson Topic Duration
1 MyPlate, knife safety, handwashing, age-appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen, how to share more meals together as a family 120 minutes
2 Discuss ways to help kids develop good eating habits, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, washing produce and cans 120 minutes
3 Reading food labels, healthier versions of convenience foods, healthy and unhealthy fats, healthy snacks 120 minutes
4 Recipes as a framework, meal planning, eating breakfast 120 minutes
5 Physical activities for families, taste and describe a variety of healthy beverages, benefits of choosing low-fat dairy foods 120 minutes
6 Review key lessons, celebrating their success, set goals as a family to continue after class ends 120 minutes

Adults-Cooking Matters
Lesson Topic Duration
1 MyPlate, reading nutrition labels, knife safety, hand-washing 120 minutes
2 Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, washing produce and cans, recipes as a framework 120 minutes
3 Healthier versions of convenience foods, healthy and unhealthy fats, healthy snacks, safe chilling of perishable foods 120 minutes
4 Meal planning, eating breakfast, using herbs and spices instead of salt, safe ways to defrost frozen foods 120 minutes
5 Comparing unit prices, saving money and making heathier choices when food shopping (this lesson is usually at the grocery store) 120 minutes
6 Healthy beverage taste test, learn about sugar, discuss ways to be more physically active, review key nutrition, cooking, and food budgeting lessons, celebrating their success 120 minutes

Core Activities

Multiple activity options are available for all lessons.


Local providers are required to provide all Cooking Matters participants with a grocery bag of ingredients for the recipe made in class. This requirement does not meet SNAP-Ed guidance for allowable food purchases.

Support for this requirement often comes from community partners such as a food pantry, retail grocer or a community sponsor.

A list of teaching supplies for implementation of Cooking Matters classes can be found at the bottom of this document. Local providers must either have the teaching supplies available or they can check them out from Solid Ground.


Solid Ground is the lead agency for Cooking Matters in the state of Washington and they have the responsibility to ensure the curriculum is implemented according to national guidelines. Solid Ground conducts training for the series classes at their office in Seattle, WA. Below are specific training requirements:

  • Attend an in person orientation session at Solid Ground in Seattle.
  • Attend volunteer training at Solid Ground in Seattle.
  • Review Instructor Guide and materials for the Cooking Matters curriculum you will use.
  • Observe another educator teach a Cooking Matters lesson (if possible)


Recipes are included for each lesson. Educators are highly encouraged to use recipes that are provided in the curriculum or those found on the Cooking Matters site, provided below. Recipes should always support core content of lessons. Other recommend recipes resources can be found below, please be sure to check the Cooking Matters Recipe Guidelines (see below) before using recipes outside of the curriculum:

Cooking Matters Recipe Guidelines

  1. Recipes must be low-cost
    1. Choose ingredients in their most whole form (e.g. whole carrots instead of baby carrots, a block of cheese instead of grated cheese, etc.)
    2. Choose packaged ingredients that are available in a store-brand equivalent
    3. Choose ingredients that are able to be used in multiple meals or snacks
    4. Choose ingredients available for purchase in bulk when possible
    5. Choose dried spices instead of fresh
    6. Always consider whether a less expensive form of an ingredient can be used
  2. Ingredients should be accessible to families (e.g. are the ingredients found in a mainstream supermarket in the area where the class is?)
  3. Recipes should be nutritious
    1. Vary the forms, types, and colors of fruits and vegetables
    2. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
    3. Minimize the use of added sugars
    4. Use leaner cooking techniques and ingredients (e.g. bake instead of frying, use canola oil instead of margarine, use leaner meat or non-meat proteins)
    5. Limit sodium
    6. Use multiple food groups (for a snack, use at least two food groups, and for a meal, use at least three)
  4. Recipes should limit the use of special equipment
  5. Recipes should be relatively quick to prepare
  6. Recipes should be simple and explained clearly.

Fidelity is…

The extent to which a curriculum or program is delivered in accordance with the intended (and tested) design.

This means:

  • Using program materials
  • Adhering to recommended pacing
  • Keeping the program’s instructional order
  • Utilizing the program ‘routines’
  • All teachers using the same materials to equalize student learning opportunities and meet instructional objectives

Making adjustments while delivering with fidelity

You can make some adjustments to the curriculum without impacting fidelity.

Examples include:

  • Supplement core lessons with appropriate additional activities1
  • Modify an activity (e.g. having participants measure shortening onto paper plate rather than making “Blubber Burgers” with actual hamburger buns, )
  •  Provide participants with coaching, ongoing support, and individual instruction when needed
  • Adjust group size
  • Increase opportunity for participants to engage and ask questions, and provide answers


Check with your supervisor for required evaluation tools and current evaluation protocol.

Please note: Solid Ground requires a specific pre/post survey for Cooking Matters. This is done in coordination with the Washington SNAP-Ed Evaluation Team.

Links to curriculum

To review the Cooking Matters series class curriculum and to find out how to become a satellite partner with Solid Ground please contact them at:

1 Many curricula have several options for activities. Choose from these options first. If you plan to use additional activities, outside of the written curricula, please review with your supervisor to ensure they meet Snap-Ed guidance.