Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventures in Social Entrepreneurship, week five: feeling the family love

The theme of this week’s curriculum was the magic of the family meal. The benefits of the family meal institution are vast and proven. Family meals create stronger familial relationships, keep kids out of trouble and on-track in school, enable kids and teens to be well-adjusted members of society, and improve health and well-being.

As we discussed the power of connecting with your family over a meal, we realized we’ve become something of a family ourselves. We shared a fresh fruit salad together and check-in on our weekly goal progress. This week our family’s matriarch (fearless facilitator and head chef Christy) blew us away with her unprecedentedly sunny attitude. She announced that she accomplished her truly ambitious weekly goal of not eating anything fried or eating any added salt all week. “I am a goal goddess,” she justly proclaimed. Josephine R. also wowed the family with her success on her three-part goal of going to the gym, drinking water, and eating green vegetables. In fact, she exceeded her goal by going to the gym four times instead of three. We are extremely proud of both of them!

(Photo: our fresh fruit salad with crumbled pecans and walnuts)

Gilda B. shared with us the impact family members can have on each other. She told us about how classmate and friend Sandra S. “is an inspiration. We should call her ‘sugar-free Sandra.’ She is always reading the labels and now I’ve started to do it too. It’s one thing to have someone like your doctor tell you to read labels. It’s another thing to have your friends and the people around you doing it all the time.” Along a similar vein, Shalina talked about how changing her own eating habits has impacted her daughter’s behavior. “This class has changed my whole life and my daughter Nasiya’s life too. Because I’m now trying new foods all the time, she’s also trying foods she’s never tasted before.”

(Photo: Gilda B. talks to us about the inspiration she gets from her friend “Sugar-free Sandra”)

As we all know first-hand (from being kids and perhaps raising kids too), kids aren’t always the most open-minded and adventurous eaters. This week we all shared tips on how to incorporate healthy foods into a child’s diet. Research has shown that kids are more willing to eat fruits and vegetables when they’ve been involved in the process of bringing them to the table: whether through cooking, picking out produce at a farmers’ market, or growing the fruits and vegetables at their schools or in their backyards. To demonstrate ways to incorporate veggies into traditional kid-friendly recipes, our meal this week was a healthy macaroni and cheese with spinach.

We also all know that family meals aren’t the only institution influencing children’s eating habits. This week our food justice educator, Shalina, talked to us about the strong need to advocate for healthier options in school lunch and breakfast programs. Our participants shared stories about the lunches being served in West Oakland schools and talked about the need for change.

Next week we’ll learn more about the importance of a healthy breakfast, and sneak spinach into yet another innocuous food item: fruit smoothies.

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