Master of Fine Arts
MOTIVATION: The value of family mealtime has been well documented by decades of academic research. Children from families, (regardless of race, class or income), that routinely sit down to a meal together, suffer less depression, obesity and substance abuse. They also stay healthier and do better in school (Benefits 2018). There are nutrition, health, social, and mental benefits to eating with others. Research has shown that people eat more fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods when they share a meal with others. They also drink less soda and eat less fried foods (Benefits 2018). Eating meals together teaches children better communication skills and the opportunity to learn more words (Benefits 2018).
PROBLEM: In environments that have limited fresh fruits and vegetables, yet numerous sweet and salty snack food, food insufficiency, and infrequent family meals have been found to be associated with poor dietary intake and/or obesity. (Mason 2014). People and families may make decisions based on their environment or community. For example, a person may choose not to walk or bike to the store or to work because of a lack of sidewalks or safe bike trails. Community, home, child care, school, health care, and workplace settings can all influence people’s daily behaviors. Therefore, it is important to create environments in these locations that make it easier to engage in physical activity and eat a healthy diet (Adult 2018). If we know that eating nutritious meals together at home equals can reduce stress, obesity, and depression, and lead to a happier life, why do people still make other choices? Lack of food education? Resources? Time?
METHODS: Direct observational and objective data was collected through a survey to better understand the choices that people make. Research through articles, books, and documentaries will support my findings on the benefits of community kitchens and gardens. Precedents include Shalom Farms, Feed More, and other community kitchens in the country
RESULTS: Despite intense nationwide efforts to improve healthy eating, progress has plateaued, and health biases remain (Berge 2017). Community kitchens have been associated with enhanced food skills, improved community food security, and improved social interactions (Iacovou 2013). Studies of community kitchen-based nutrition and cooking instruction program for parents and children suggests increased enjoyment of cooking and decreased consumption of meals away from home (Iacovou 2013).
REFLECTIONS & CONCLUSIONS: How might a community cooking school, garden, and table where members share knowledge, resources, and labor to prepare, cook, and consume food improve the member’s health? A kitchen-based nutrition and cooking instruction program for parents and children would bring food freedom, or the right to food, implying that sufficient food is available, that people have the means to access it, and that it adequately meets the individual’s dietary needs and an environment to learn basic cooking techniques and food gardening. This community cooking school and garden will highlight healthful eating, incorporating young children into growing their own produce, cooking, and emphasizing the emotional and social benefits of family meal time. In this space, a variety of programs for all experience and income levels would be available year round. Every class would end with a meal around the table, because eating together is as important as what’s on the plate.
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