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Cooking Matters Michigan

Empowering families with the skills, confidence and knowledge to prepare healthy and affordable meals

Volunteer Spotlight: Joanne Sycko MS, MBA, RD

Rebecca Blauw

Joanne Sycko I grew up on a beef cattle farm in northwest Indiana that has been in my family for over 100 years. My father was born there and my brother still lives there.   I was very active in 4-H as a child and teenager, raising cattle and hogs as well as learning to sew.

While study Home Economics at Marygrove College ,  I became interested in Nutrition and Dietetics.  The biochemistry of nutrition and the chemistry of food science interested me.  I went on to earn a MS in Nutrition Science from MSU after completing my undergraduate degree and worked under supervision for the Children and Youth Project at the University of Texas Health Science Center to complete my requirements to be able to take the dietetic registration exam.  Over the years I have raised a family, taught at Marygrove and Madonna, worked in 2 community mental health agencies, three hospitals and earned an MBA degree.

I am the outgoing president of the Southeastern Michigan Dietetic Association.  SEMDA is a local affiliate of the of the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  SEMDA’s purpose is to promote optimal nutrition and well-being for all, as well as to provide a professional network for registered dietitians/nutritionists in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe and St. Clair counties and to facilitate collaboration and support.  SEMDA helps to promote programs such as Cooking Matters, provides grants to members for community outreach programs during National Nutrition Month, and provides education programs and a spring conference for members and non-members.  I actually learned about the Cooking Matters Program at a SEMDA meeting.

I think I enjoy teaching Cooking Matters classes because I enjoyed teaching my children to cook and enjoy nutritious food as they grew.    I have taught adult, teen and diabetic classes, and I am currently teaching a family class.  I enjoy seeing children and adults gain knowledge and confidence as they learn food prep skills and try new foods and flavors.  And I have enjoyed learning from the program participants as they share their food traditions with me.

Trying to juggle my current job as clinical nutrition manager at Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester with visits to children and grandchildren in 5 different states, tends to leave me with little time for my hobbies of sewing and gardening, and my newest hobby of running. But I always try to find time to teach at least one class of Cooking Matters each year.  With National Nutrition Month beginning, I cannot think of anything better than making a resolution to teach at least one Cooking Matters Class annually.

My favorite recipes tend to be foods that can be prepared in advance and put in the “fridge” or the freezer for those “I don’t have time to cook” emergencies (i.e. the days I teach Cooking Matters, or go to the gym, or run).  My freezer has chili and homemade soups.  In the fridge, I like to have prepped fresh veggies for salads, with canned beans, cheese, roasted sunflower seeds or walnuts to sprinkle on top.  My favorite kitchen gadget is my salad spinner, where a rinsed and torn head of Romaine keeps an incredibly long time.  My favorite salads are also made with pasta or cooked grains (brown rice, bulgar, quinoa, barley); vegetables, mushrooms and cooked meats or fish.  I can make these on the weekends and not have to worry that my husband will starve if I have to work late.  I learned this from having five very athletic children who always seemed to be walking in the door starving, at all hours of the day or night after football, soccer, swimming.