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Simple Suppers: An Educational Cooking and Nutrition Curriculum for Limited-Resource Families

Agriculture
Creative Works
Copyrights (Food/Agriculture)
Copyrights (Health/Wellness)
Food Science
College
College of Education & Human Ecology
Researchers
Gunther, Carolyn
Kennel, Julie
Rogers, Catherine "Katy"
Licensing Manager
Flammang, Ann Marie
614-292-9839
flammang.2@osu.edu

T2015-310 An extensive collection of inexpensive, well-balanced meals with an accompanying series of lessons packed with fun activities to advance nutritional knowledge and family engagement.

The Need

Food insecurity within a household is directly associated with a family’s lack of available resources. Low-income families can often find it difficult to provide enough food, which can cause a reduction in food consumption, disruptive eating patterns, or other unhealthy eating habits. When families experience food insecurity, it is common for the foods being consumed to consist mostly of grains and other filling items that may not provide essential nutrients. Low-income families have also become more inclined to consume cheap fast food options in an effort to save time and money.

Time and budget constraints, limited nutrition knowledge and preparation skills, and lack of social support can often inhibit parents from providing regular family meals and healthy mealtime routines, causing families to resort to quick, cheap meals. Food behaviors such as these can have adverse health effects – both physically and mentally – especially for developing children and adolescents. Eating behaviors that cause obesity are established early in life and become difficult to change later. Childhood obesity has become prevalent in the US and obesity can lead to much more serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. A lack of healthy food also causes children to become disassociated from key learning opportunities related to nutrition and beneficial family interaction. In order to improve the health of children and adolescents and better prepare them for a healthful adulthood, a program that utilizes balanced meals with ingredients that are easily attainable by limited-resource families and that encourages children to be involved has been developed.

The Technology

Researchers at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Carolyn Gunther, developed Simple Suppers, a nutrition education/cooking curriculum of ten different lessons designed to encourage limited-resource families to establish healthy eating behaviors. Simple Suppers consists of lessons plan aimed at exploring the benefits and constraints of healthy home-cooking for families with limited resources and is accompanied with a collection of recipes. Unlike traditional cookbooks, the recipes were created with inexpensive, easily-accessible ingredients that can provide a well-balanced meal for the family. These recipes can provide families with a meal option that provides children and adolescents with the necessary nutrients for growth as well as opportunities to learn about and be involved with meal preparation. The lessons covered in the program teach families how to manage their resources when planning and preparing meals using budgets and time-saving strategies, how to compare various food options and sizes for meals, and how to get everyone involved in establishing a healthy diet. Simple Suppers is evidence-based and has been field-tested with preliminary data indicating increased frequency of family meals and improvements in certain child dietary behaviors.

Commercial Applications

  • Nutritional classes for students in schools
  • Community learning classes for families
  • Training for new families or those looking to improve health

Benefits/Advantages

  • Easy to understand curriculum
  • Designed specifically for young children
  • Use in field tests increased family meals and improve child dietary outcomes

References

1. USDA Economic Research Service. Report Number 215. Household Food Security in the United States in 2015. Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M.P., Gregory, C.A., Singh, A. (Sept 2016).

2. CDC. 2016. Childhood Obesity Facts. Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States: 2011-2014. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html.

3. CDC. 2014. National diabetes Statistics Report. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf.