Family meal: 18 Reasons joins forces with neighbor Three Squares to extend reach of healthy eating

Learn how to whip up healthy plates at the new combined 18 Reasons and Three Squares

Community food hub 18 Reasons has always had the back of the well-meaning kitchen newbie. With a cafe space, educational programming, and tasting events geared towards making a healthy, sustainable diet doable, since 2007 when the organization's co-founders brought in Bi-Rite Market, a happy partner for the little space located a block from the family grocery store's Mission digs. Now, the reach of 18 Reasons has grown even more. The non-profit working to create social change through food has merged with Three Squares, a neighbor food organization with a happily congruent mission to feed.

Both 18 Reasons and Three Squares aim to slow things down when it comes to the way we eat. Both non-profits serve through nutrition lessons and cooking classes with a healthy planet bent. Major difference? Three Square’s offerings, up until this point, have been free, focusing more closely on the low-income families who want to learn about eating well.

Three Squares’ founder -- the now-executive director at 18 Reasons Sarah Nelson tells the Bay Guardian, “our goal is to teach people -- no matter what neighborhood they live in -- how to maximize their food resources. We believe the best way to fix our food system is by building skills and forging relationships among people across the economic spectrum.”

The idea for the merge arose after the companies began working on a few projects together. “I realized we had a very similar mission but were reaching out to difference audiences,” Nelson says. “I didn’t want to leave Three Squares – it is my baby. So I proposed merger.”

The merged companies will operate under 18 Reasons' moniker, stay at its 18th Street location, and continue to hold its signature classes which include: cooking courses, urban gardening school, and various other workshops.

Three Squares will bring the group's "Cooking Matters" course to the table. The six-week course – with different sections designed for adults, kids, and teens – includes an hour of nutritional education followed by an hour of hands-on cooking. The courses, designed for adults and teens, focus on cooking, while the kid’s section is aimed more towards getting young'ns to taste and appreciate new foods. Graduates of "Cooking Matters" walk away with a free bag of ingredients so they can go home and practice what they’ve made in class.

Recipes taught in Cooking Matters vary from class to class, but Nelson tells me dishes like veggie quesadillas, tilapia with cilantro sauce, and English muffin mini-pizzas have been students' past favorites. 

“Our classes target home cooking,” says Nelson. “We are not teaching professional cooking skills. Our courses are for people who want to cook at home with their family.”

If you need to up your own kitchen skills but don’t frequent the Mission, don’t worry. "Cooking Matters" courses are conducted in community health centers, schools, food pantries, social services offices, and other sites all over the Bay Area.

18 Reasons, 3674 18th St., SF. (415) 568-2710,