Young woman wearing a mask prepares small packages of food to donate.

18 Reasons Expands Virtual Cooking Lessons and Food Donations to Bay Area Families


18 Reasons started as a small group of Bay Area farmers and neighbors, sharing community dinners and an appreciation for locally grown food. In 2013, this grassroots organization teamed up with local nonprofit, Three Squares, which was providing free cooking classes to low-income individuals across San Francisco. With their expanded organization, the new 18 Reasons had even greater opportunities to serve the local community.

Today, the organization provides free Cooking Matters classes to over 3,500 low-income children, teens and adults annually across the Bay Area. With these classes, 18 Reasons has taught families how to make nutritious, quick and affordable meals for their everyday life.

In 2019, the organization received a $7,500 Neighborhood Grant from the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation. With that grant, they planned to ramp up their cooking classes by providing increased access to families with limited resources. To do so, 18 Reasons knew it would be helpful to provide the ingredients, equipment and instruction free of charge. By eliminating these barriers, more families would be able to join the Cooking Matters series, a six-week-long cooking program that meets for two hours a week. However, when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, causing the closure of schools and implementation of social distancing protocols, it forced 18 Reasons to rethink their approach.

Throughout the spring and summer, 18 Reasons successfully transitioned their formerly in-person Cooking Matters program to an online learning format called Cooking Matters at Home and Cooking Matters en Casa (a Spanish language cooking series). Through this virtual series, 18 Reasons features videos covering three main topics: recipes, culinary techniques and nutrition tips. Registered attendees can also participate in live presentations of the classes, allowing for more interaction with the instructors.

A woman teaches a virtual cooking class on YouTube. Families participate in a virtual cooking class on Zoom.


In addition to their online classes, 18 Reasons also started a food box delivery system which allows them to provide three times as much food to the community as they were previously donating. They are currently delivering 16,500 pounds of fresh, healthy ingredients to food-insecure households each month.

Woman at a food bank eagerly packing donation boxes.
Volunteers hand out boxes of food at a distribution site.

Through the adversity of COVID-19, 18 Reasons was able to find more than just one silver lining. They can now offer cooking classes to more participants than ever before, and their educational resources are available to anyone, regardless of their geographic location. Also, by receiving a 2020 Neighborhood Grant, they will continue to provide the freshest ingredients and highest-quality instruction, making for a fun, interactive, and educational online cooking program.

18 Reasons is determined to not let COVID-19 slow down their efforts of addressing food insecurity and nutrition education. Instead, they want to ensure that every person they meet gains the skills necessary to create healthy affordable meals for themselves and their family.