Greener Schools Family Dinner Nights engaging students and parents around healthy eating

January 24, 2012

DETROIT -- Building off a successful start to close 2011, more EMEAC Greener Schools Family Dinner Night events are in the works at Nsoroma Institute and Palmer Park Preparatory Acadmey (P3A) in early 2012 according to program coordinators Sanaa Green and Priscilla Dziubek. Both schools have hosted a pair of the special workshops aimed at educating the community on the dangers of childhood obesity and the pending 2012 U.S. Farm Bill.
"Family Dinner Nights have gone pretty well," said Green. "We've done two at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy and then two an Nsoroma. Each one has been considerably different. We hope to communicate some of the primary considerations of the Farm Bill. We want to show the parents how the Farm Bill affects them directly. It affects school lunch. It affects the foods we are able to buy."
The Greener Schools team hosted the first P3A Family Dinner Night October 27. It included a review of and discussion of the teen produced video, "Green Pepper and the Liquor Store." On November 9, the Greener Schools team hosted the initial Family Dinner Night at Nsroma. Before the end of the year, there was another December 14 and 15. Up to 20 people attended and the student prepared dinners.
"More students attended than we expected. We thought it would be just adults. Some students were great contributors to the conversation about the Farm Bill," Green said. "
"At P3A we talked about the Farm Bill and the school lunches and the eighth graders were very interested and concerned about the having the healthy choices that they want for lunch. They were very energized about it and Family Dinner Night was a way to get what we were teaching the students in class and share that with the parents. The ultimate goal is to reduce childhood obesity, so there has to be family involvement,"
The Family Dinner Nights at Nsoroma Institute, an African-centerd charter school in east Detroit, has been particularly well received organizers said.
"I think the main difference between P3A and Nsoroma is that at Nsoroma a part of their curriculum is talking about food," Dziubek said. "They do food sovereignty work. At P3A we have the garden and the children come to the lab and work on all our environmental projects, so we are trying to target some of the younger kids.
"We have the preschool program (at P3A) where parents come every day but the parents are very busy. We've had a couple of people that have come to both of them, but that's just what we have to start building the relationships that we have to get more parents involved. We are working in the schools, and we look at the Family Dinner Nights as an opportunity to draw in more of the community and get more information out through the community."
Nia-Joy added that Nsoroma's emphasis on culture has made the Family Dinner Night's there particularly enjoyable.
"Especially at Nsoroma, the parents are really interested," she said. "They came and stayed the whole session. We also had a lot of children come and they participated in the discussions about the Farm Bill and contributed quite a bit to the discussion.
"The culture Nsoroma is different too. It's a charter school so the parents like to be engaged in the philosophy of the school. Since they are already interested in healthy eating and healthy living, they already like the notion of food justice. When they come in everyday, they are involved in the culture of the school. Even though we haven't had an overwhelming number of parents come, we've been pleased with the turn out.
The next round of Family Dinner Nights are being planned for February and March. The exact dates are yet to be finalized but the community event at Nsroma will be catered by Peoples Community Kitchen, which is one of EMEAC's partners in the Cass Corridor Commons. The Environmental lab at P3A is actually the former home economics room and has plenty of preparation space. Eighth grade students at both schools will help prepare the meal as part of the youth leadership development initiative.
"What we are going to do next is move to having Angela Newsom from Peoples Community Kitchen to actually prepare the main course," Green said. "She's going to come and prepare the meal and give recipes on healthy eating that their parents can use for themselves.
"The eight graders are actually being trained now to work with the pre-schoolers and the kindergarteners. We are working to get the message out about the importance of good health and fighting against childhood obesity to not only the students but also the parents. If we can sandwich that information between the youth and their parents,