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Cooking up tasty lessons about healthy food on a budget

Local Chef Shane Wichtendal gave the "Cooking Matters" class some entertainment and laughs while teaching them how to cook nutritious foods. (Photo by Brooke Erickson)

Elden's Fresh Foods is giving back to the community by sponsoring the location for Cooking Matters in Minnesota.

Cooking Matters in Minnesota is a hands-on, cooking-based nutrition education program that teaches low income families how to prepare healthy and tasty meals and snacks on a limited budget.

The nationwide program connects local volunteer culinary instructors and nutrition educators with community partners to teach low-income adults, teens and kids about eating healthy.

Cooking Matters has been expanding in rural areas and has reached out to the Head Start Association. Connie Bye, the Head Start health services coordinator, is in charge of the six-week program that's taking place at Elden's.

For two hours every Monday for six weeks, Bye and volunteers will be teaching low-income families how to cook nutritional foods on a low budget.

Shane Wichtendal, local chef, is teaching the cooking classes. He is offering up different recipes like "The Works" gluten-free pizza, roasted vegetables in pasta, and baked flaked chicken.

Each family receives a Cooking Matters recipe book, shopping bag, and food thermometer. They also get a tour on how to save money while grocery shopping.

Cooking Matters follows the "My Plate Eating Plan" and teaches different sections about kitchen safety, how to get the most out of the foods you purchase and reading food labels.

"The Head Start Association and Community Action partnership feel fortunate to have been chosen to offer this to their Head Start families and are looking forward to future classes," Bye said. "We are all very appreciative of the sponsoring and support of United Way, Elden's, and the awesome local volunteers that make this possible."

When J.R. Christensen, manager of Elden's Fresh Foods, was approached about sponsoring the location for this program, he was enthused to give back to the community.

"Elden's Fresh Foods is glad to be part of educating people on how to make good nutritious food choices on a low budget," Christensen said.

The goal of the effort is to help families find better balances between budgets and nutritious foods by increasing home cooking, fruits and vegetables, and in the process, discover an all-around healthier lifestyle.

If you are interested in learning more about Cooking Matters in Minnesota, contact Connie Bye at Or visit Cooking Matters website


Cooking Matters was created by two chefs in Colorado who put on "Black Tie" fundraisers to fight hunger. They decided instead of creating these fundraisers, they would put their talents to better use by teaching those on low budgets how to cook and use nutritious foods. The goals of the program:

--Surround kids at risk of hunger and/or chronic disease with nutritious foods where they live, learn and play.

--Teach families how to prepare tasty nutritious foods on a limited budget.

--Promote daily physical activity and the importance of family time.

--Strive to help families help themselves.

--Increase access to public and private grocery support programs.