Two women in aprons prepare a veggie stir fry

Two volunteers preparing the tomato and yellow squash side dish. Many of the volunteers come from the county’s health department. They enjoy helping at the food pantry because they can connect with their clients outside of work.

Hunger Coalition of Transylvania County - Rosman, NC

Transylvania County

Every Thursday, volunteers with the Hunger Coalition of Transylvania County (HCTC) set up a cooking demonstration at their mobile food pantry. They started hosting cooking demos after learning that many pantry clients did not know how to use the food they received. In addition, many people did not have access to reliable transportation, so it was hard for them to attend a stand-alone cooking class. Each cooking demo focuses on a simple, nutritious recipe that includes items the clients receive from the pantry that week.

HCTC attended a training on healthy cooking demos from Manna FoodBank’s Nutrition Works Program. Manna created this training after a report showed that more than half of their clients have high blood pressure, and that 64% have to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care. These cooking demos teach clients how to prepare nutritious meals, which will help them maintain their health throughout their life.

Demo: Tomato and Yellow Squash Side Dish

One of the sample recipes is a side dish featuring yellow squash and tomatoes. On the day this recipe was featured, clients received zucchini, canned tomatoes, and pasta. The volunteers chose this recipe to highlight the zucchini (a substitute for yellow squash), which is not always the most popular item at a food pantry. Although the recipe did not originally call for pasta, the volunteers added it to show clients how they could turn this recipe into a full meal. The dish was a big hit- some people even went back to get more zucchini after trying it!

Before you hold a cooking demo, make sure you know how to prepare the food safely and nutritiously. The training HCTC received from Manna FoodBank focused on two main areas:

  • Food Safety, such as safe cooking temperatures, sanitation, and food storage

  • Cooking for people with chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure or diabetes

You will also need supplies, such as cooking equipment, recipes, and ingredients. HCTC purchased equipment, including two electric hot plates, through a small grant. They received recipes from Nutrition Works, their local cooperative extension agent, the health department, and online research. The recipe they feature is based on the food items the clients will receive that week.

Check out this guide from Arizona’s Cooperative Extension for basic food safety information, supply lists, and ideas for your cooking demos.




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