Philadelphia’s First Congressional District has an acutely high overall poverty rate. With its persistent 40% childhood poverty rate, this district remains one of the poorest in the nation. It is also the fourth hungriest district in the nation according to the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. To address this reality, Philadelphia has an extensive network of programs and resources for food insecure households which augment federal food nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC. Getting local fresh food to individuals who need it is the crucial first step. Sunday Suppers builds on this by helping families make wise food choices and prepare delicious and nutritional meals that they share around the dinner table.
The core of Sunday Suppers is a weekly family dinner of balanced, nutritious and delicious local foods served family style on linen covered tables with flowers and tableware. Participants are families with young children living in Norris Square, a primarily Latino neighborhood within the high risk First Congressional District. Research shows the many and varied benefits of shared family mealtimes such as; reducing the risk for substance abuse, promoting language development, aiding academic achievement, enhancing positive child behavioral outcomes, and reducing childhood obesity. Additionally, the shared family meal offers an opportunity to escape TV, computers, cell phones and life’s daily stressors; it is a time to talk about the day and connect with one another. Sunday Suppers provides a model for families to replicate in their own at homes. While the family meal is the centerpiece of Sunday Suppers, other essential elements include;
• Nutrition education and cooking demonstrations. A nutritionist provides guidance to both Sunday Suppers and to families to use in their everyday food purchasing and meal preparation. This guidance and the prepared and ‘take home’ meals will showcase local fresh vegetables and healthy foods while integrating cultural preferences. Cooking demonstrations will teach basic cooking techniques and demystify unfamiliar ingredients with quick and easy to follow recipes. A cookbook and shopping list will be developed based on the food allowed through SNAP and WIC • Access to Food Assistance There have been many reports of the difficulty applying for SNAP and WIC. Not only is the process confusing and cumbersome, applicants often mistakenly believe that they do not qualify for benefits. Assistance with applications and follow up support will be available to participating families. • Increased Access to Local Food Norris Square has beautiful and vibrant gardens that provide a bounty of vegetables and education to children about gardening. Participating families will have an opportunity to participate in community gardening, thereby increasing their access to local fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, participants will join Farms to Families, an initiative of the St Christopher Hospital Foundation, and receive weekly CSA shares; this will also be available to members of the larger Norris Square community. • Kitchen Assessments A significant barrier to eating a more healthy diet is the inability to adequately store, prepare and share meals. Sunday Suppers will ascertain whether families have a refrigerator, stove, and a table and chairs to gather around for dinner. At the same time these items will be solicited from individuals and contractors, Phillyfreecycle (an online site where people post things that they are giving away) and Craig’s List. Additionally smaller kitchen items (dishes, pots, pans) that have been donated to Sunday Suppers may also be available.
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