Get Your Family Eating Right! HealthCorps’ Curriculum Partner, FamilyCook Productions, Releases A Handbook for Families
The following is an interview with Lynn Fredericks, founder and guiding force behind FamilyCook Productions.
Question: Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for this book?
Get Your Family Eating Right! (Fair Winds Press 2013 by Lynn Fredericks & Mercedes Sanchez) is a result of over 14 years collaborating together on educational programing on cooking for a healthy lifestyle for families and school children of all ages through FamilyCook Productions. It all started with my journey with my sons helping in the kitchen when my life changed abruptly through divorce, and I became a single mom. That successful family journey inspired me to teach others, and now all our evidence-based strategies from our successful K-12 programs are compiled in an accessible, actionable way for all families, through our new book.
Question: Why do you think this book is so timely?
When I founded FamilyCook back in the 90s, nutritionists were still focused on the number of grams of individual nutrients to consume to be healthy, and most working mothers felt they did not belong in the kitchen! Times have certainly changed; more and more parents realize that what you choose to eat, where it comes from, and having it freshly prepared as opposed to being processed and from a package, is so important. But cooking can still seem like a chore, so in this book we bring readers along easily. And for people who are concerned about the environmental impacts of foods we eat, our 30 step approach gives people the tools to do what author Michael Pollan, in his new book, Cooked says is the most important way to ‘vote’ with your fork each day: get into the kitchen and cook!
Question: Can you describe your relationship with HealthCorps, the idea behind Family Cook Productions, the inception of the teen battle chef program, and how this all ties to the information you offer in the book?
I developed Teen Battle Chef (TBC) 10 years ago to inspire teenagers to find their path to a healthier lifestyle. Through our innovative formula employing time limits and weekly competitions, teens develop a preference to prepare their own snacks and meals using fresh ingredients. Seeing this transformation, we then took the program to the next level by exploring the teens’ capacity to influence their families and friends. With that success, the program’s scope now includes internships and job opportunities for these youths to teach others in their community. So they are also paying it forward…
For the last four years, HealthCorps (HC) has licensed FamilyCook’s Teen Battle Chef program for all its’ schools – now 66! There are currently just over 100 schools that run the program nationally. As part of our partnership, FamilyCook also innovates in a consulting relationship with HealthCorps, to further develop the leadership capacity of HC TBC students. Our latest research, conducted with HC TBC students in all 15 of their NYC schools, has shown that 89% of the students make positive changes in their own eating habits, and that 59% of them positively affect the eating habits of their family and 50% affect the eating habits of their friends. This is a huge affirmation about the effectiveness of Teen Battle Chef. These findings demonstrate we can make more progress by working together than by working separately. It’s the best possible collaboration.
So getting back to our new book, the same recipe concepts and nutrition strategies that are part of all our FamilyCook programs, including TBC, are now compiled in a book to share with families, far and wide. The book inspires families to give their own children the opportunity and empowerment to learn how to cook. This is an essential step to develop a healthy lifestyle.
Question: What do you think is the biggest struggle for parents, when it comes to providing healthy food in the home?
The truth is our society does not consider family meals at home a priority. So many families are challenged by the expectation that work cuts into mealtime, and their belief that kids should be involved in multiple activities that all typically happen after school and well into the evening hours. So parents struggle because they don’t have the necessary cultural support. In France or Japan for example, the whole society values the family meal and the national dishes that are inherently health-supporting. Everything stops at mealtime and resumes afterward. Hence, it is easier for parents to have their children be in sync with eating ‘real food’ in these cultures.
Question: Do you think parents are cooking enough and involving their kids in the cooking experience? If not, what do you think is the stumbling block?
Most parents are definitely not cooking enough, and this shift has been ongoing for decades. I think more parents are cooking on weekends and will let kids help make pancakes, an omelet or salad, and bake. But, making dinner on a daily basis with their children? Even if they let little ones ‘help,’ this usually falls by the wayside by 2nd grade when homework and school related activities become more demanding and the cultural support for home cooked meals is lacking. Not to mention the perception of convenience foods and how much ‘faster’ they are … which in truth, is not really always the case, but the perception and lure of the convenience is hard for parents to resist.
Question: How will this book help parents and kids to eat healthier and embrace the idea of preparing more of their meals and snacks?
This book takes the most skeptical-about-cooking-meals-from-scratch parents, on a step-by-step journey – 30 steps in all. Our approach sequences these steps to make shifts both psychologically and practically, so they ease into the changes. We don’t pretend it’s super easy, but we do break it down so it’s not intimidating. We also demystify confusing and contradictory advice out there about nutrition. We help people to embrace healthful foods and strategies, without necessarily counting grams of fat or specific nutrients, and we help to connect them to pleasure in meals in general. When our strategies are followed, and adhered to over time – there is no ‘quick fix’ – they simply “work well,” and parents see results. Our recipe concepts make it possible to quickly prepare a meal based on what’s on hand, so one does not always have to shop for ‘special’ ingredients. Parents are even encouraged to use some of the tricks of food marketers to entice their children to eat healthy food. And for snacks alone, we offer 18 quick and delicious snacks that need assembly, but are so delicious. Parents are incentivized to not give up and keep working the steps!
Coming up every Tuesday this month: Delicious recipes from the book, Get Your Family Eating Right! (Fair Winds Press 2013 by Lynn Fredericks & Mercedes Sanchez.
You can buy the book here!