When kids pitch in making meals, they’re empowered to consider the portions, the vitamins and the nutrients of what they’re eating. Evidence links family dinners to healthier life choices, and cooking reinforces skills to help kids succeed like math, teamwork and following instructions. The Kids Cook Monday is a project of The Monday Campaigns. We checked in with Marketing & Partnerships Associate Nara Sandberg to learn more about the organization’s work in the food education space.
Tell me about the connection to the Monday Campaigns. When was Kids Cook Monday founded, and what’s your mission?
The Kids Cook Monday was founded in 2010. Kids Cook Monday is an initiative of The Monday Campaigns, associated with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities. The goal of The Monday Campaigns is to reduce chronic disease by encouraging individuals and organizations to join together to dedicate the first day of every week to health.
Kids Cook Monday encourages families to set aside the first night of every week for cooking and eating together. We are founded in research that shows that cooking reinforces what is learned in school such as skills in math, reading, teamwork, following directions and that are exposed to hands-on culinary experiences are more likely to consume healthy foods. Family meals also tend to be healthier, and are associated with many benefits for children including: improved academic performance, decreased rates of high-risk behavior and lower reported stress.A growing body of research suggests that healthy thinking and behavior are synchronized to the week, with Monday being the day people are most open to listen to health messages and act on them.
So, why Monday of all days?
Why Monday? Monday has a special significance in our culture as the beginning of the week, which influences our mood and health outcomes. Put simply, if you start something on a Monday, you’re more likely to do it and to stick with it.
What does it look like for a family to engage with resources?
We offer a variety of free resources on our website, kidscookmonday.org. Resources include recipes and a free weekly newsletter, The Family Dinner Date. We also have a downloadable e-cookbook, social media assets, posters, conversation starters and more. We also offer a toolkit both for families and educators looking to bring Kids Cook Monday to a school or community. Many Kids Cook Monday participants host “Family Cooking Night” events in schools and their local communities. We can provide guidance and resources to anyone looking to host these events.
Can you tell me a story of one kid or family impacted by cooking and eating together?
We have been hosting Family Cooking Night events at PS32 in Brooklyn for several years. After a recent event, one kid came up to us saying that he normally HATES tomatoes and never eats them, but loved them in the recipe he’d just prepared and would try them again in the future.
Kids Cook Monday was test piloted at Columbia University Teachers College in 2010, and three week classes were offered to families in Harlem to jump start the tradition of weekly family dinners. The results were great – 70% of kids who participated wanted to be involved in meal prep and were willing to try healthier foods. Parents also reported that the program reduced their reliance on takeout and helped them cook more meals at home.
What are you working on for the rest of 2019?
We recently began working with the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative (NJHKI), a joint collaboration between the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH) and the Child Health Institute of New Jersey (CHINJ) with funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
NJHKI incorporates Kids Cook Monday into the programs they’re working on. You can learn more about our collaboration in this short video.