CLEARFIELD -- Tina Kirkham visited Cynthia Smith in her home recently to make French bread from scratch.
It's no secret that many these days are suffering from a generation gap that led to limited knowledge about cooking, Kirkham said.
Kirkham, an instructor with the free Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and Smith, a homemaker who needs educational credits for running a daycare in her home, were together because Kirkham offers free classes through the EFNEP program.
"We're finding more and more people that don't cook," said Paula Scott, EFNEP Northern region coordinator.
She pointed to convenience as a culprit.
"They are choosing other ways to spend that hour it would take to prepare a meal," she said.
Besides EFNEP, a number of Top of Utah agencies are addressing the issue of residents' limited cooking skills.
Among them are Catholic Community Services, area bishops' storehouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Salvation Army.
Classes and efforts to hand out basic recipes are among the tactics agencies are using to address this issue.
"If we only give people handouts and don't address the core of the problem, we haven't served them well," said Lt. Peter Pemberton of the Ogden Salvation Army.
His classes still are in the formative stages, but he hopes to start soon.
Limited knowledge of how to use basic cooking ingredients was evident last month at the holiday food distribution at the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank in Ogden.
When offered a sack of flour, only about half of the recipients accepted. Some said they still had a lot of flour from last time they were there.
Kirkham and a handful of other instructors through both Weber County and Davis County Utah State University Extension Services are available to anyone in the Top of Utah who wants to have the free 10-session cooking and food-handling classes in their home.
Kirkham said many times she looks into a person's cupboards and teaches them how to use the food they already have.
She said often low-income people have collected cans of tomatoes and scads of dried beans from the food banks and she can show them how to use these items.
"We make chili a lot," she said. "We do casseroles with Ramen noodles. Skillet lasagna and meat loaf in a crock pot also are easy and popular."
When asked why many people today don't know how to cook from scratch, Standard-Examiner readers had many answers -- from the availability of fast food to limited time and lack of knowledge.
"The age-old tradition of families cooking and eating dinner together is a victim of widespread social change," said Andrea Widdison of Hooper. "Homemaking skills are seen as less important in modern society. Children are overscheduled, parents are overworked, and people are busier than ever before."
A Standard-Examiner reader who is just finishing a college semester studying this subject said the American population is becoming the laziest in the world.
"It's not the fact of not being able to cook," she said. "It is too hard."
In a research comparison, she said, nine times out of 10, she found that it was less expensive to make food from scratch, it gave more servings and the food was more healthful.
Scott and Kirkham agreed that learning how to cook and finding a reason to make the choice to cook have far-reaching effects on those who do it.
"Their self-esteem is just amazing when they can do something like that," Kirkham said. "
"When you are in a person's home, you get personal," Scott said, noting that the personal touch allows instructors to address the unique issues that each individual faces.
"I've seen many different clients with the state of our economy," Scott said, noting that her program used to mainly help stay-at-home moms.
A Roy woman said she definitely realized the need for cutting costs through cooking from scratch when her family lost its source of income.
She said she went from heating up easy recipes in two microwaves for 20 minutes before dinner to having to use ingredients like flour, which took more time.
The woman said she got her knowledge from recipes she was given at the bishop's store house.
The woman said she found it a problem, as she was not able to afford many of the ingredients in most recipes and had to really search for ones with only basic ingredients.
Carlyn Lundell Nankervis suggested that the food bank include recipes for simple and inexpensive food with the flour.
But no matter what information is out there -- and Kirkham said with the Internet, there is scads of it -- people still have to make an effort to change.
Devon Taylor, 16, of Hooper, said he was taking the initiative to make sure the term "homemade" didn't become extinct in his house.
"Probably the only reason I'm learning to cook is that my mom's been too busy to do it herself lately," he said.