Navigation Menu+

Set up healthy cooking classes

Layout 1

Karin Kozlowski, WVU Extension Nutrition Outreach Instructor, helped design a month-long course at a food pantry, teaching people how to cook fresh food on a shoestring budget. Photo courtesy Jefferson Community Ministries.


Belinda Nicholas, a WVU Nutrition Outreach instructor, frequently demonstrates healthy cooking at Morgantown’s farmers market. (Photo courtesy WV Food and Farm Coalition.)

Is it possible to eat healthy, tasty food on a shoestring budget?  Karin Kozlowski says yes.   “It takes planning, but you can cook for less than you’d pay for fast food,” she said.

Karin is a WVU Extension nutrition outreach instructor in the Eastern Panhandle. She teaches a multi-week low-cost, healthy cooking class for the Jefferson Community Ministry food pantry on cooking on a SNAP budget, using vegetables from the pantry’s community garden.

She combines small amounts of higher-cost ingredients (meat, some vegetables) with lower-cost ingredients (rice, beans, other vegetables) for stews, stir-frys, and casseroles with tasty ingredients like herbs, garlic, lemon juice and hot sauce.

In Morgantown, Belinda Nicholas, another Extension outreach instructor, did the same thing: “People need to learn to cook if they’re going to eat healthy on a budget,” she said. So she set up cooking


The students at Morgantown’s North School grow food in a variety of international gardens. The use the food they harvest in classroom cooking class. (Photos courtesy North School)

demonstrations at the Morgantown farmers market, showing people how to stir-fry and make stews, mixing small pieces of meat with fresh vegetables and grain. Seeing how popular her demonstrations were, the Morgantown farmers market set up a permanent cooking station.

The public schools have stopped teaching cooking, Kozlowski noted. “A lot of people just get takeout, because they never learned how to cook and flavor food.”

How about healthy cooking classes in your community?


West Virginia Health Right volunteers run frequent one-time classes on subjects like “Cooking on a Shoestring,” tricks of cooking healthy food that costs less than fast food. (Kate Long photo)

  • Click here for a great list of Web sites on cooking on a shoestring budget!

  • These sites will help you create classes on low-cost healthy cooking …. or help you cook healthy food yourself.

  • In addition …
  • The national Cooking Matters organization offers first-rate, affordable resources for communities that want to organize cooking schools or demonstrations.
  • Contact WVU Extension Service Nutrition Outreach Instructors.  Help them schedule cooking demonstrations in venues such as the farmers market, school health classes, or evening classes (see below). It’s their job. If your county doesn’t have an instructor, find out which instructor covers your county.
Kanawha County’s KEYS 4HealthyKids ran a series of food prep classes in the public libraries, sometimes introducing kids to new foods. (Kate Long photo)


  • Family Cook Productions:  This Web site has it all: blueprints for community and school cooking classes, tips for teaching kids to cook healthy food at home, etc. etc.
  • Kids Rock Nutrition in the Kitchen. A great collection of video recipes, cookbooks, and other resources for kids.
  • Body Works: Twice a year in Martinsburg, a coalition of groups offers  this eight-week cooking course for parents and teenagers, free from the Office on Womens Health. The course helps mothers learn cooking skills and ways to create a home environment that fosters healthier habits.
  • The US Department of Agriculture has a first-class collection of resources, curriculum, recipes and lesson plans for adults and kids.
  • Want affordable, tasty alternatives to soda pop? Water is a good start. Also try tasty fruit-infused water recipes and others at Pinterest.
  • See the Try This page on gardening in schools for ideas about combining gardening and cooking.

Here are some ways WV communities have held classes or demos:


Volunteer teacher Don Smith shows cooking class participants the herbs he grew in barrels in his back yard. (Kate Long photo)

Want to build a broad, more sustained effort to spread cooking skills?

  • Join your local school Wellness Council. That gives you an official way to campaign for cooking classes.
  • How can your school system teach nutritious cooking? Maybe in health class, maybe collaborating with Extension.  The resources above can help.

    “If you stir fry, you can make a piece of meat go a long way,” said Nutrition Outreach Instructor Belinda Nicholas, here demonstrating low-cost cooking at the Morgantown Farmers Market.


Here are related Try This pages:  food preservation, school gardening, community gardening, teach kids about health, healthy breakfast

Have something to add? Write it in “reply” below, with your contact info, in case we have questions.



  1. I am a community resource coordinator for KVC Behavioral Health. I have been looking to set up a cooking class with out foster children. Is there any guidance or assistance you could give me in securing a class. Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. i am based in botswana and would like to engage in the same project. kindly advice

    • Going to put this articie to good use now.


  1. Here’s what’s on this Web site | Try This - […] Set up healthy cooking classes […]
  2. Expand farmers markets. | Try This - […] Also see these pages: distribution systems, community gardens, high tunnels, healthy local food = economic development, healthy cooking classes…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *