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

sentences soon.

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.”