Let’s Cook! addresses food insecurity by empowering families through monthly, hands-on, no cost, food transformation workshops open to all. Despite ongoing efforts to attract grocers, Millvale remains a “Food Desert” with low access to supermarkets. The closest grocery is not on a bus line and transportation is a barrier to over a quarter of the borough population, forcing many to rely on low quality food options.
Food desert risk factors include low incomes, absence of reliable transportation, distances to healthy foods, and lack of cooking time or knowledge. Workshops address this last factor using foods from the food pantry and Dollar Store supplemented by fresh produce from NHCO’s Garden and donations from county grocers. Professional chefs, dieticians, and graduate students lead hands-on workshops in an enjoyable and creative environment, teaching participants to prepare affordable, nourishing meals using available resources and both familiar and unfamiliar foods. Participants enjoy the results of their efforts in the post-workshop meal and/or take home leftovers to share. Recipes and educational materials are provided in hard copy and online.
Lead partners of Let’s Cook! are North Hills Community Outreach (NHCO) and Christ Lutheran Church (CLC). NHCO engages communities to help struggling families work toward self-sufficiency, harnesses the power of volunteers, and partners with CLC to operate the Millvale food pantry. CLC provides the kitchen and space for monthly workshops. This community has been marginalized and under-resourced due to vanishing industry, cuts in public transportation, and unsuccessful attempts to attract grocers. We believe all families deserve access to healthy foods and that education is key to overcoming the challenges of a food desert. Let’s Cook! is part of a larger initiative to address food access issues and offers a positive, solution-oriented response to the current food-access challenges faced by families in our community.