Food Skills for Families Program promotes healthy eating and cooking
Community organizations can support clients in eating healthy and making shopping and cooking easy, quick and fun by hosting a Canadian Diabetes Association “Food Skills for Families” program.
The hands-on curriculum-based six-session program teaches people how to make healthy meals, snacks and beverage choices and gain confidence in the kitchen. Programs are delivered to targeted, at-risk populations (Aboriginal, Punjabi, new immigrant, low income or seniors). Over 350 organizations across BC have delivered a Food Skills for Families program since 2008. These include community centres, community kitchens, neighbourhood houses, immigrant and refugee agencies, friendship centres, churches, and schools.
Carrie Yan has run the Food Skills for Families program for the past 3 years at Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House in the Hastings-Sunrise area of northeast Vancouver. Multi-cultural groups attend the classes at Frog Hollow. Carrie, who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, translates for some participants. People with different levels of English-language skills support each other so everyone understands the program material.
At Frog Hollow, Carrie teaches and demonstrates new cooking skills and techniques, introducing less familiar implements - like the mandolin for thinly slicing vegetables – to participants who have the opportunity to practice together during the group cooking sessions. The participants then practice individually at home, and together review their results and suggested recipe modifications. Participants often post pictures of their dishes on Facebook.
Many participants are mothers with young children. While some have a good knowledge of basic cooking techniques, in the program a number are exploring new territory in the kitchen by working with unfamiliar cooking implements.
Friendships are formed and deepened as the group works and shares together. Participants have fun trying new recipes as a group. They eat and socialize together and enjoy discussing the foods they have prepared and the skills and knowledge they have acquired.
As a result of the program, participants report that they are eating and trying more fruits and vegetables, preparing new and healthier recipes at home, and cooking more from scratch. Even Carrie is eating more fruits and vegetables than before! The mothers of young children have more confidence in involving their children in food preparation and clean-up and find that their families enjoy eating the healthier foods with reduced salt, sugar and oil. A participant whose husband has diabetes said that he found the recipes tasty and that the program had been helpful in managing his health condition.
Carrie has enjoyed developing her teaching skills and the experience has increased her confidence. Carrie brings a unique perspective to the program as a former participant in community programs when she first immigrated to Canada with her family, and now uses her culinary experience to run the Family Programs kitchen team and serve in a formal instructional role at Frog Hollow. She loves seeing participants increase their skills and confidence in the Food Skills for Families program.
Click here to apply for the program. Potential hosts must offer an equipped kitchen with at least one oven and room for a dozen people to prep and cook together, as well as a room with tables and chairs for teaching sessions. The host agency must be able to reach one or more of the 5 target groups (Aboriginal, Punjabi, new immigrant, low income or seniors), register 12 confirmed participants for the course, and provide childcare and transportation as needed for program participants.