Nutrition assistants from Alameda County provide free six-week cooking courses for Oakland residents to promote having a nutritious diet and community health. The classes, called Cooking for Health Academy, focus on teaching people about dietary needs and reading nutrition labels, as well as gaining skills in the kitchen.
According to nutrition assistant Joseph Whittaker II, who teaches the class at the Defremery Recreation Center, the classes have been running for about eight years. He, along with other county workers, first developed the program after realizing many of the people who benefited from food banks did not know how to healthfully prepare the food provided. “We said, ‘We need to have cooking classes to show them how to read nutrition labels, how to identify healthy fats and non-meat protein sources, and be able to actually cook the food the food bank is supplying them with,'” he said.
Participants who complete the program are qualified to test for a food handler certification. Those who pass will become eligible for jobs such as food services at Oakland public schools or in-house shoppers for Safeway’s online shopping. “We believe that education should be directly reflected in your paycheck,” said Whittaker.
Cooking for Health Academy runs several times a year at locations in Oakland, Hayward and San Leandro. Additional information about the program and other Alameda County nutrition services can be found here.