Parents looking for a way to prepare healthier meals on a budget, while also bringing family members together for dinner may find answers in the Destination Dinner Table program.
On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the DDT program was officially announced during a ceremony for the genH (generation Healthy!) Coalition at Springfield Christian School, 2850 Cider Mill Lane.
GenH is a volunteer-based organization in Sangamon County that began in 2008. It focuses on creating a generation of healthy children through education, empowerment, improved nourishment and increased physical activity.
Brandy Grove, executive director of the genH Coalition, said that the creation of the genH Coalition and the DDT program came as a response from various organizations who feel it is important to get kids to eat healthy at a young age and be as active as possible.
She said the program started as the brainchild of Dr. Kemia Sarraf, president and founder of genH Coalition. “Eventually, through the cooperation of other people and groups throughout the community, we began to form this common bond, which was that we needed to start to educate children and adults about proper nutrition and physical activity in an effort to fight childhood obesity,” Grove said.
The DDT program’s focus is to create awareness, to children and parents, of the importance of making family mealtime a nutritional priority, while also demonstrating that it can be achieved while working on a budget.
Springfield Mayor J. Michael Houston was on hand to give the official proclamation. “Most importantly this is a program that approaches children and talks with them about good nutrition and the importance of eating at home and eating together as a family. These are the types of things that help children grow and develop,” Houston said.
Houston said that the education parents and children can receive through the DDT program will demonstrate that with effective planning, a nutritional meal can be achieved on a budget.
Following the ceremony, parents were able to work alongside chef Charles Campbell of the Lincoln Land Community College culinary school and receive lessons on how to make a fast and nutritional meal that can be easily created at home.
While the parents worked on preparing the meal, the children worked with genH staff and volunteers who instructed them how to set the dinner table and use proper etiquette while at the table.
Sarraf said that one of the major goals of the DDT program is to provide parents with the knowledge and skills to create a meal in a timely manner.
“Through the Destination Dinner Table program parents will learn the basic skills to prepare a meal in less than 30 minutes, while also showing them that a nutritional meal can be purchased for less than $8,” Sarraf said.
Sarraf said that the basic skills the DDT program teaches vary from how to get children to eat vegetables to ways to prepare a chicken dinner.
“Vegetables do not have to be bland and overcooked or boiled on the stove. They can be lightly sautéed with different herbs, but people don’t usually know how to do that,” Sarraf said.
“We teach simple skills like how to cut up a whole chicken. A whole chicken is much cheaper than a boneless/skinless chicken breast, so we are going to teach them handling skills, like how to cut up a chicken that can be used for two meals instead of one.”
Sarraf said that the long-term goal for the DDT program is for one interactive demonstration event to be held each week, on a yearly basis, at local schools.
Sarraf said that for parents and children who would like to know if there is a DDT event planned for his or her school or who would like to get involved in the program, they should go to www.genhkids.org and contact her directly.
The second part of the DDT program continues through a partnership with County Market, where parents can attend a one-hour education session at the County Market on Veterans Parkway. The one-hour session includes teaching parents about healthy foods in each department, education on how to understand food labels, as well as ways to eat and shop for meals on a budget.
The classes meet every other week on Thursday (5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m.-11a.m.) at the customer service desk at County Market on Veterans Parkway. To participate in a class you must reserve a spot in the class by contacting the County Market on Veterans Parkway.
The County Market health and wellness advisor, Hope Danielson, said that the DDT program assists in addressing the nation’s growing obesity problem.
“One of the things we always hear is that people want to buy healthy foods, but they think it is too expensive. Since we have been facing an obesity crisis, it is important to educate people on these basic skills so they can make at least one weekly meal,” Danielson said.
Niemann Foods/County Market, St. John’s Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Cares sponsor the DDT program.