Every child deserves healthy food every day. And we need your help to make that a reality. By volunteering with Cooking Matters, you’ll be making a positive impact on your community and helping end childhood hunger in America by helping families make healthy food choices. You'll be empowering low-income families with the skills to stretch their food budgets so their children get healthier meals at home. You can also make new connections and friends in the culinary and nutrition fields and improve your public speaking and teaching skills. Furthermore, if you instruct 15 courses, you’ll be inducted into Cooking Matters’ national Volunteer Hall of Fame and honored by our local Massachusetts team.
While Cooking Matters offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to give everyone the chance to get involved, no matter your experience or schedule, the majority of our volunteer opportunities are for direct programming.
Choosing the right volunteer opportunity depends upon your commitment and availability, in addition to interest and experience.
Six-week courses – Courses are held at community partners across the state and are scheduled Monday through Friday between 9:00am and 8:00pm. The time commitment for culinary instructors, nutrition instructors, and course assistants is approximately three hours a week for six consecutive weeks. Instructors are also expected to review instructor guides before class and come to class prepared to lead the lesson for that week.
Additional volunteer opportunities – Volunteers can engage in grassroots activities that range from contacting elected officials to organizing utensil drives. These can be tailored to your availability. Non-course opportunities support us in important ways and offer volunteers a chance to support Cooking Matters with a time commitment that works with their schedules. Learn more about additional volunteer opportunities.
Culinary Instructor – If you’ve worked in the culinary industry and/or attended culinary school, are proficient in knife skills, basic cooking techniques, kitchen safety/sanitation, and basic ingredient substitutions, you may be a good fit! You should be able to successfully and comfortably teach basic cooking skills and techniques to our participants. If you’re a current culinary student or avid home cook, you’re welcome to volunteer; however, you may find that volunteering as the course assistant before taking the lead instructor role may be beneficial. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Nutrition Instructor-- Our nutrition instructors usually have formal nutrition education and are Registered Dietitians or nutrition professionals. Some are current nutrition students; some are graduates who may not be currently working in the field. You should be able to successfully and comfortably teach nutrition lessons based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines in a shared group setting. If you’re an undergraduate nutrition student, you are welcome to volunteer, but you may find that volunteering as a course assistant first may be beneficial before taking the role as lead Nutrition instructor. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Assistant— There is no specific training or experience needed to be a successful course assistant. If you have an interest in food, nutrition, healthy living, and ending childhood hunger but don’t want to jump into the lead instructor role, being a course assistant may be the right role for you! The course assistant provides support to the lead instructors, such as an extra pair of hands during class or helping with set-up and clean-up. The assistant is not expected to provide cooking or nutrition information, but this role can also provide an aspiring culinary or nutrition instructor with the opportunity to experience the 6-week course before determining if the lead instructor role would be suitable. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Interpreter— Interpreters can help translate for the educators, participants, and course coordinator when necessary. We offer classes in Spanish, Portuguese, and Mandarin and love nutrition and culinary instructors who can teach in those languages as well. To get started volunteering come to a training.
Attend a New Volunteer Training! Trainings are an interactive training for programming and not an orientation. To learn more about Cooking Matters Massachusetts and decide if it is the right volunteer opportunity for you, please review the materials on Get Started.
We offer two training options: in-person at our South Boston office or online webinars.
Take a look at Our Calendar and find a training date and location that works for you. Trainings last about 2 hours and are held at least once a month. If the dates, times, or locations on our calendar are not convenient, let us know and we will try to accommodate your needs. To attend a training, email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.
Periodically, we look for volunteers to support Cooking Matters at the Store event days. Event days are held throughout the state 5-8 times a year. Event day volunteers must have completed a Cooking Matters new volunteer training first and opportunities are promoted through monthly newsletters and posted on Our Calendar. To attend a training, email email@example.com to RSVP.
Your time: For a six-week course expect to spend 3-4 hours per week. (2 hours of class time, 30 minutes before and after for set-up and clean-up, and approximately an hour of prep). We ask our volunteers to communicate via email to help plan for class and to read through the lesson plans before class.
Your skills: Volunteers should have the ability to work well on a team and be flexible; be comfortable working with people from diverse backgrounds; and have basic public speaking skills. Teaching experience and a sense of humor are added bonuses!
Lessons plans: We provide lessons plans for you for every class. The national Cooking Matters staff has developed curricula for all volunteer instructors and course participants. Nutrition content is based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines. Recipes use accessible, low-cost, nutritious ingredients and have been cost- and nutrition-analyzed. As a culinary and nutrition instructor, you’ll get an instructor guide that includes lesson plans, activities, handouts, and recipes for each week.
Your knowledge: In addition to our lesson plans, bring your own knowledge and experience to share with the participants! We love that our volunteers are passionate about food and nutrition! However, many of our participants are just beginning to think about making healthier food and nutrition choices, so it's not the space to go into depth about vegetarianism, organic or local food, etc. Share your passions and healthy eating tips in a way that invites discussion and is sensitive to different perspectives. All nutrition lessons are based on MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines, and all class recipes use readily-accessible and affordable ingredients.
Courses are held in a variety of different locations at a variety of different times. Cooking Matters partners with community-based organizations that serve low-income populations. These community partners recruit the participants and provide the course space. Take a look at where we offer courses here and see our upcoming scheduled courses here. If you don’t see courses in your area, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we are continuing to expand our programming into new locations and would always love new support!
Cooking Matters courses are for low-income participants. They include adults, families, teens, and children. Many participants receive SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) and may access programs like WIC or local food pantries. They come to class with a variety of views, beliefs, and experience, so presenting your ideas with sensitivity is always important. Participants may not always speak English, in which case an interpreter would be present.
A culinary instructor, a nutrition instructor, an assistant, and a staff coordinator. The staff coordinator acts as a support resource for the volunteers, serves as a liaison between Cooking Matters at the host organization, helps ensure classes run smoothly and on time, and brings all necessary kitchen equipment, ingredients, handouts, and class materials based on instructor and class needs.