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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A school-based community kitchens program as a strategy for providing food and nutrition-related and psychosocial benefits to inner city families Milligan, Carol Dawne


Problem: Inner city school families are vulnerable to poor nutrition. This study was conducted in inner city schools to address the following research questions: What perceived benefits, in the areas of food, nutrition and psychosocial well-being, can small, school/community-based health promotion programs provide? How do such programs operate – what are their goals, strategies and challenges? How can their perceived benefits be interpreted in terms of health promotion theory? Methods: A qualitative, responsive evaluation approach was used to examine a community kitchens program, “Cooking Fun for Families,” in eight elementary schools in Vancouver, Canada, over a two-year period (2001-2003). All programs served adults; some also included children. Data consisted of program observations (n=75); interviews with adult participants (n=27), staff (n=13) and administrators (n=13); document review (staff sessional evaluation forms, n=29); and an adult participant questionnaire (n=88). The study examined how the program model was implemented and the perceived benefits of the programs. Findings were interpreted within a health promotion framework. Findings: The clientele were ethnically diverse and the majority suffered from food insecurity. Program implementation: From 4-15 adults cooked together weekly or bi-weekly, under the guidance of a facilitator. Some programs also provided instruction and activities for children. Several programs culminated with a shared meal. The programs addressed numerous issues, such as healthy eating on a budget, safe food handling, encouraging children to eat more fruit and vegetables, involving children in food preparation, and social and cultural isolation/integration. The small, intimate, inclusive, engaging, sensitive and non-threatening nature of the programs supported the development of perceived benefits in food-related and psychosocial areas. Main perceived benefits: Food-related skills and competencies, social integration and positive health/psychosocial well-being increased for adults. Healthy eating attitudes and behaviours and food preparation skills increased for children. Conclusions: The programs applied current strategic health promotion strategies of enhancing (healthy-eating) health literacy, strengthening social networks and providing a supportive environment. The food/nutrition and psychosocial perceived benefits of the programs occurred in conjunction with each other. This type of program holds promise for increasing healthy eating skills, attitudes and behaviours and psychosocial well-being among inner city children and their families.

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