July 11, 2022

SAY San Diego’s Family Cooking Club Brings a School Community Together Around Food

Shannon Stracener,  Program Manager of SAY San Diego

On Friday afternoons, families excitedly gather all their fresh produce and ingredients for the week’s Family Cooking Club recipe; they circle around their computers together to learn, cook, and have fun!

Family Cooking Club began in 2019 at Field Elementary School in the San Diego Unified School District as an on-campus, six-week series funded by a mini-grant award to SAY San Diego for their Field Healthy Start program from Berry Good Food. Grant dollars helped purchase food and supplies, but the program thrived because of the partnership with Berry Good Food volunteers, who led the cooking classes, and parents, who helped prep, clean, and welcome families. Produce for the weekly recipes was picked directly from the school garden right outside the classroom where Family Cooking Club was being held.

SAY San Diego sought out funding to bring Family Cooking Club to Field Elementary School as a way to build upon the robust garden program there, by incorporating after-school family engagement into the amazing learning students were doing during the school day.

From the beginning, the mission of Family Cooking Club was to increase families’ intake of fruits and vegetables, and to educate them about the role fruits and vegetables play in healthy eating through weekly cooking classes. The vision of Family Cooking Club is healthy and thriving families and communities. And, that mission and vision remain today!

Fast forward to the 2021-2022 school year, Family Cooking Club is going strong, with a few minor changes. Rather than in-person classes, families join via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since families are cooking from home, they pick up their household’s bag of ingredients before each meeting, along with a binder containing the day’s recipe and nutrition information for the produce of the week.

As the cooking club starts, the students eagerly unpack their bag of fragrant fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Then, together with the experts from Berry Good Food and Healthy Kids, Happy Planet, families start cooking, with SAY San Diego staff as their sous chef and facilitator!

Family Cooking Club creates meaningful and lasting impacts for families and the community. All of the youth participants shared that they liked eating vegetables after being a part of Family Cooking Club!

One family shared, “Our family’s favorite part about Family Cooking Club was watching my child’s confidence grow and my child eating new vegetables.”

A beautiful and unplanned outcome of Family Cooking Club was the creation of a Food Pantry by Field Elementary School parents for their community. They saw a need within their community and rallied together with the support of SAY San Diego, Berry Good Food, and Specialty Produce. In just a few months, 75 individuals were able to access fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food items because of this grassroots effort.

Now that SAY San Diego knows that Family Cooking Club is successful both virtually and in-person, they are looking for additional community partnerships to keep the momentum going by bringing more sessions to Field Elementary School and other schools.


To become involved or collaborate with Family Cooking Club, please contact Shannon Stracener, SAY San Diego Program Manager at


Each year San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI) releases a Request for Applications for mini-grants addressing policy, system, or environmental changes in support of healthy eating and active living. This year, COI had 17 applicants with a request for over $75,000. While funding typically covers 2-3 projects, the COI was able to fund 8 mini-grant projects this year thanks to a generous gift from the Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan.