All of us know the battlefield that food can be in the home. Children become fussy eaters for a number of reasons and parents are left feeling overwhelmed by the power of this battle - wanting to see adequate nourishment, and at the same time wanting to allow children to choose. This, alongside some very serious food related illnesses that occur more and more today, can make food a complex topic in the home.
In our Alphabet Soup program, we support families to make a happy relaxed connection to food with an inspiring collection of approaches. A cross-cultural or annual festival theme introduces new foods to children with recipes, food preparation, rhymes, songs and story-time. The program runs for two hours weekly for four to six weeks and is located in local Strong Start Centres, adding to the diversity of programs that our partners can offer within that familiar and safe venue. Parents leave the program with a lovely package that contains words to the rhymes they have used in the sessions, recipes, stories, and tips on safe developmental activities for children in the kitchen.
Yelena Churchill, our Alphabet Soup facilitator, says, “The children and parents both learn valuable skills about preparing and enjoying food in a pleasant environment. A big part of Alphabet Soup is encouraging families to sit down and eat together for at least one meal a day. There are great literacy benefits as well!” Studies show that dinner conversation boosts vocabulary and the stories told around the kitchen table help children build resilience.
Here are some informative links we send to Alphabet Soup families:
The Family Dinner Project
"The most important thing you can do with your kids? Eat dinner with them."
Another food based program we offer families is a nutritional literacy program that focusses on food preservation. We also have a food security goal with this program - we access local food and tell participants where the food came from and how they can access it themselves. Program activities include canning pears and tomatoes and making applesauce and canning it. To finish we explore pressure canning beans and fish. This is a wonderful partnership with the Women’s Institute, whose members are very interested in participating in this cross generational opportunity that shares knowledge and tips on what was a way of life in their lives as young mothers.
Food in family literacy programs seems to us, in our abundant rich agricultural valley, an obvious way to build a culture of learning in the home. Within the scope of this program we know we are empowering parents to take a lead role by making food something that not only nourishes us, but gives us connection to each other and our community.
To learn more about family literacy programs in the Columbia Basin and Boundary visit www.cbal.org.
by Sheila Dobie
Community Literacy Coordinator – Grand Forks
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy