Equity, at TABLE, is defined as access for ALL our kids and their families to sufficient, nutritious, delicious, and culturally-relevant food, as well as nutrition education, engagement, and participation in our programs and decision-making. We’ve learned that to truly improve the overall physical and mental health of the kids we serve, it’s imperative we collaborate in meaningful and intentional ways with their parents, guardians, and families.
We believe each parent is an expert in their own life and their child’s life. As an organization we want to encourage autonomy and self-determination, supporting families in the way that makes sense for them and improve our programming, a combination that will ultimately help the kids we serve.
Our Family Engagement Program initiatives have evolved over the years and have had a direct impact on our food access and nutrition education programs.
Early in TABLE’s founding, we ensured the food we were providing met the dietary needs of the kids we served whether it was eliminating food for children with certain allergies or foods that should be avoided due to religious and cultural needs. More recently we increased the amount of fresh food we include in our bags by 50% (based on feedback from our families) and are piloting a custom grocery program called TABLE Marketplace.
Many of the changes we’ve made to our programming have been a direct result of the feedback we have received from our annual family surveys which we started sending in 2013 and have become more intentional with more measurable results over the years. Our families’ responses have helped us to better understand the impact we are having on the overall physical and mental health of the kids we serve not just through the food we provide but also through our nutrition education programs.
Gradually over the years we have taken greater steps to engage directly with our families to create a more representative “table”, no pun intended, the table where they eat at home as well as at TABLE, where our programs are created and developed and where decisions are made about what they will eat.
Some of the steps we’ve taken include:
- Hiring a full time Director of Family Engagement and a Spanish Family Engagement Coordinator
- Contracting with interpreters to provide equitable communications to more families (Spanish, Burmese, Arabic) and moving to a new phone system with multi-language options.
- Hosting family engagements events each year including a Spring Picnic and a Back-to-School event.
- Creating a Parent Advisory Committee which is a multicultural group of TABLE parents who are interested and committed to serving as a governing body in the organization. The PAC helps plan events, determines guidelines for our current programs, and brainstorms community partnerships.
We had a parent tell us, “I wanted to join the PAC because I want to give back to TABLE and the community.”
We look forward to bringing even greater value to our Family Engagement Program as we move into our new space and are able to offer even more valuable services. By bringing families into the planning process and co-creating together, we will have better programs, and ultimately stronger health outcomes for the kids we serve.