Sunday Suppers are all about families sharing a healthy dinner around a family table, reminiscent of the African American tradition of Sunday dinners after church. This concept resonates strongly with Oldways — our heritage diet pyramids stress the importance of eating together, and our Taste of African Heritage classes teach participants how to make healthy, aﬀordable, and delicious meals at home. That’s why we are thrilled to talk about the Philadelphia-based Sunday Suppers Program. The program takes the model of a traditional, shared family meal a step further and facilitates an environment for families to “learn about fresh and healthier foods, diﬀerent cooking techniques, simple nutrition facts, and the importance of family meals” according to the Sunday Suppers website.
Participating families take ownership of the program by helping with set up and break down, and by packing food boxes for other families in need in conjunction with the Share Food Program, a partner of Sunday Suppers. The overarching goal of the program is “to equip each family with the information and hands-on skills they need to have physically and emotionally healthier lives.” As the organization points out, in addition to the importance of access to healthy food, it is equally important to focus on food choices and food preparation while placing family at the center in order to help people lead healthier lives.
Sunday Suppers are held at Memphis Street Academy Charter School, intentionally located in a high-needs community with high rates of poverty, crime, and food insecurity in order to help create alternatives for families in that community. Two of our A Taste of African Heritage volunteer teachers joined Sunday Suppers in February to share some African Heritage recipes with the families. It was a big success with lots of attendees. The dishes included: Mafe Stew, tangy collard greens, black-eyed pea salad, and rice and beans in coconut milk.
Here were some of the takeaways from our Taste of African Heritage volunteers:
“Many [participants] did not think they would like, for instance, putting peanut butter in the stew, but they really enjoyed it all! And many said they would make them again.” – Claire Richardson, ATOAH volunteer
“We got to talk about heritage and culture [and] how that ties into your experience,” said Khaliah Pitts, ATOAH volunteer. “[When it’s framed like] A Taste of African Heritage is, this makes sense for me because we are speciﬁcally saying this is for you [and] best for you, and we can connect to it.”
Aside from helping families to choose healthy foods and learn how to prepare them, Sunday Suppers also oﬀers lessons on reading food labels, exercise/movement, and food budgeting. Every spring the families get to plan what crops to plant in a garden the Sunday Suppers community shares, prepare raised beds, plant vegetables and herbs, and take care of a garden so they are able have direct access to aﬀordable and fresh food! If all of this is not enough, as families start participating in the program, their needs are assessed and they are provided with donated kitchen items that will help them reach their goals towards better health and nutrition.
If you would like to volunteer, donate kitchen essentials, or see what Sunday Suppers is up to please visit their website.
Sade Anderson, Oldways African Heritage & Health program assistant