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A New Nutrition Program for Kensington

Beginning in 2011, Sunday Suppers used weekly three-course community dinners as a forum for hands-on cooking sessions, nutrition advice, and tips for shopping on a limited budget. With the beginning of Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020, the organization began delivering food boxes with healthy recipes and resources.

Effective in May 2021, Sunday Suppers has become Nourish, a new meal kit delivery service run by New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC). Nourish delivers weekly meal kits containing healthy whole foods, simple recipes, nutritional information, kitchen checklists, suggested physical activity, and social service information. Nourish will also offer bi-weekly Zoom calls focusing on cooking instruction and other pertinent information.

Sunday Suppers Program Manager Jacquelyn Saez remains the program manager for Nourish.

Advancing Food Justice

Sunday Suppers Director Linda Samost said she had two objectives when she founded Sunday Suppers in 2011: to strengthen the health and well-being of low-income families, and to one day turn over the daily operations to leaders in the communities it serves.

“Although I will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations,” Samost said, “I will continue to support the efforts of Nourish and NKCDC and I hope you will too, so that they can adopt and expand our original goals of advancing food justice and addressing social determinants of health.”

“We are grateful for the years of innovative work from Sunday Suppers, the expertise of the staff involved, and the good fit the new Nourish program will be for NKCDC and the communities we serve,” NKCDC Executive Director Dr. Bill McKinney said.

To learn more about the Nourish program, visit nkcdc.org/nourish.

More about the History of Sunday Suppers

Because the family meal is the core of our program, our families are able to learn and provide support to one another to reach their goals and make lasting changes. Every cohort is different, but on average, our families have the following characteristics:

Access to Healthy Foods

Families in low-income neighborhoods often have limited access to fresh and affordable food and basic pantry items. Yet, fast food chains and corner markets that offer overly processed foods and sugary drinks are abundant in these neighborhoods. Lack of access to transportation, limited budgets, and inadequate government assistance programs make food purchasing decisions for these families even more complicated.

Almost all of our families (92%) receive supplemental benefits from the federal government (SNAP, WIC, TANF, SSI, SSID MA or Medicaid) and 75% of these families report that their benefits do not last through the end of each month.

Additionally, we believe in the power of the shared family meal, and its ability to transform the gap between food access, healthy eating, and behavior. Sunday Suppers acts as a unique intermediary that links the many efforts to enhance food access to positive dietary and behavioral change.

Developing Cooking Skills

Limited access to healthy and affordable foods, paired with an abundance of cheap unhealthy food, fast food restaurants and corner stores, means low-income families tend to consume more processed food and sugar-laden drinks. It makes sense that they make (or buy) what they know, what is convenient, and what they know their family will eat.

For many, gone are the days of learning to cook from your mother and grandmother. Many families who come to us either don’t know how to cook or are cooking in less healthy ways. Self-confidence as well as lack of kitchen equipment are huge barriers. Sunday Suppers addresses this by offering hands-on cooking lessons at least twice a month, during which participants learn a range of skills and information.

For example, in a lesson we call “Eating the Rainbow” participants name fruits and vegetables of a variety of colors, learn their health benefits, try samples in each color category, and then make a dish incorporating as many colors as possible.

We also show families how to make familiar and loved foods in healthier ways. Who doesn’t like fried chicken? But maybe a healthier alternative can be substituted some of the time.  Instead of deep frying with a heavy coating, our families learn to make baked “fried” chicken with cornflakes! Of course, it is important that the substitute is delicious and easy to prepare.

Staff, community volunteers, and trained facilitators lead interactive cooking demonstrations, using fresh food in simple, easy to follow recipes. A to-go bag following Sunday Suppers’ weekly family meal includes the ingredients and recipes from that evening’s instruction, encourages families to try new dishes and cooking techniques at home, reinforcing what they learned. We provide information and skills so that families can set individualized, attainable goals that will lead to lasting changes in their families’ eating habits.