Sunday Suppers uses food, education, and community-building to strengthen the health and well-being of families experiencing poverty and food insecurity. The organization’s centerpiece is healthy meals served in a restaurant-like setting, nourishing families in an open-hearted, respectful manner. In addition to expanding food access, Sunday Suppers amplifies the benefits of the weekly dinners with several complementary programs:
* culinary, nutrition, and wellness education
* providing home kitchen equipment
* peer leadership training
* gardening program.
Sunday Suppers’ goal: remove as many barriers as possible to leading healthier, fuller lives. We create a safe, supportive community, maximizing program impact while addressing the connections between food, health, and environment. To that end, Sunday Suppers offers interconnected programs and services that:
* start with family suppers
* build families’ skills, knowledge, and confidence
* provide kitchen supplies
* respect the participants’ intelligence, courage, and cultural preferences
* establish a community, which some describe as “a second family”
For five months, a cohort of families are welcomed to a three-course, family-style weekly meal. Tables are set with flowers, cloth napkins, and tablecloths. Menus are culturally relevant, and new foods are introduced alongside healthier versions of familiar favorites. Ease of preparation and ingredient cost are key considerations in menu planning. Each family receives a to-go bag containing food to make the meal at home. Though scratch-made meals can be healthier and less expensive than other options, many families rarely cook from scratch: lack of skills and confidence are two barriers. Our interactive, hands-on cooking lessons build confidence, while demonstrating that cooking is a fun family activity.
Sunday Suppers tailors programming to participants’ needs, believing that they are the experts in their own experiences. Family cooking lessons focus on the skills and foods participants want to learn more about. Through interactive, engaging lessons, families learn about significant health benefits they can achieve with small changes.
Lack of kitchen equipment is often overlooked when addressing food insecurity. Many poor families don’t have basic kitchen equipment, thereby limiting the changes they can make. At Sunday Suppers, families complete a kitchen audit after one month of program participation and needed items are provided, removing another barrier to healthier eating.
Growing food is another aspect of the program. Participants are open to trying just about any food they have had a hand in growing, and they appreciate the freshness, variety, and affordability of garden produce. It’s one more way to help families achieve success in their nutrition and wellness goals.
To enhance the program’s long term impact on dietary and related changes, deepen community relationships, and further engage families, an alumni program was started in 2016. Each month, this group enjoys a community meal and lesson. These gatherings help strengthen skills, knowledge, and community. We also have a Peer Leadership initiative to empower and engage community members. Peer leaders gain workforce skills and build self-confidence in their leadership roles.