Little Rock — The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance’s
Cooking Matters team partnered with the Arkansas Department of Correction’s
(ADC) Wrightsville Hawkins Center to pilot a program introducing nutrition
education to the female inmates housed there who would be completing their
The initial six-week pilot course graduated 12 -women from
the Cooking Matters class, held as part of the prison’s Think Legacy re-entry program.
Think Legacy is an evidenced-based program developed by the ADC designed
to increase the potential for successful reintegration of participating inmates
into the community. Cooking Matters, a program developed by Share Our
Strength, a national non-profit dedicated to ending childhood hunger, teaches
adults and others the skills they need to shop for nutritious ingredients on a
budget and prepare healthy meals for their families.
The class was taught by Deputy Warden Mark Warner, who had the idea to bring
Cooking Matters to the Hawkins Center. “I had been looking for a way to bring
cooking and nutrition into the Think Legacy re-entry program,” said
Warner. “When I learned about Cooking Matters, I knew it was
exactly what I was looking for.”
“Cooking Matters is absolutely the most popular program we’ve offered at the
Hawkins Center,” Warner said.
“We had better than expected results.” ADC Director Wendy Kelley said the following about the program,
“The Governor’s direction to cooperate across agencies to better serve vulnerable
populations is clearly met by this program. Releasing women with the
nutritional education will make a difference in their lives and can make a
huge difference in the lives of Arkansas families and children who benefit
from healthier meals.”
Upon release from their incarceration, knowing how to shop for and prepare
economical, nutritious meals is important so these former inmates can make
the most of their food dollars and provide for themselves and their families.
One participant commented on this importance, saying that Cooking Matters
“has taught me how to cook. I’ve never been taught to cook a day in my
life. I also have learned to cook healthy and feed me and my girls on a
budget. I can now go home and teach my girls life skills they need.”