How did you learn to grocery shop in order to bring the healthiest foods to your family while operating within your budget? Did someone teach you? Did you attend a class? Did you tag along with a parent who included you in decision-making processes? We all know that education increases access to opportunities and improves lives, but some of us forget that education is powerful when it comes to what we put on our plates, too. A little over a decade ago, a passionate group of people whose Executive Director recently received the Good Neighbor Award from the Golden State Warriors figured out a compelling way to help bring food skills education to the entire Bay Area community, and they have been on a mission to do so ever since.
Photos care of Allison Eckert
Allison Eckert started working with 18 Reasons as a member of AmeriCorps in 2015 and never left. “As soon as I learned about 18 Reasons’ mission-driven programs, I was hooked. 18 Reasons brought together my passions for working to support women and recent immigrants, as well as my deep interest in our local food system. I had previously worked in restaurants, farms, and grocery, and 18 Reasons married my food background with my commitment to serving the community. ”
Photos care of Allison Eckert
More than 3,500 low-income Bay Area families each year have their lives forever altered by Cooking Matters, 18 Reasons’ free 6-week cooking and nutrition program. Kids, teens, adults, and entire families learn how to buy, cook, and eat nutritious and delicious food each and every day while operating within their existing budgets. To provide easy access to Cooking Matters classes, 18 Reasons offers them in partnership with more than 80 agencies like schools, clinics, affordable housing sites, and food pantries that are already serving low-income families, so 18 Reasons’ services are woven seamlessly into existing routines in participants’ lives.
Of the more than 24,000 families who have participated in 18 Reasons’ nutrition and cooking classes to date, 78% report that they now eat more healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and 98% report that they use the skills -- like nutrition label reading, food resource management, comparing prices, and meal planning -- that they learned in the program to help them stretch their food budget and afford more healthy ingredients. “In 2019, we learned just how much of an impact we have on hunger and food insecurity in our community,” Allison notes. “As a baseline reference, food insecurity in the Bay Area drops by 1% each year as the wealth in our area grows, whereas 18 Reasons is able to reduce food insecurity among our low-income participants by 12% in just 6 weeks with our Cooking Matters program.”
18 Reasons invites you to participate in their award-winning, community-strengthening work. In addition to their free Cooking Matters program for low-income communities, they also offer paid programming geared toward home cooks at their 18th Street culinary classroom. Proceeds from ticket sales help fund free classes for families in need. Allison says, “We invite every member of our community to join the 18 Reasons family!” You can buy tickets to the hands-on cooking classes, dinners, and tasting seminars 18 Reasons hosts at its 18th Street culinary classroom. You can rent 18 Reasons’ classroom space for a corporate team-building event or a private cooking party or dinner. You can make a donation to support the free Cooking Matters program. You can volunteer in Cooking Matters classes. And, of course, you can use checkout code GIVE827 every time you shop at PLAE.co to donate 10% of your purchase price to 18 Reasons. Allison adds, “If there’s another way you’d like to get involved, we are all ears, and you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.” You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.