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The FRIDGE Retreat – A Unique Intergenerational Nutrition Education Program

Posted: August 30, 2013

On July 26-28, 2013, 12 families in Lawrence County, PA took part in a unique weekend program about family communication and healthy eating. The weekend retreat, held at the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Pulaski, PA, was based on the FRIDGE program model. [Just in case you are curious, FRIDGE stands for Food Related Intergenerational Discussion Group Experiences.]
My Plate Roll-Up activity at the FRIDGE Retreat (July 27, 2013; Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center)

My Plate Roll-Up activity at the FRIDGE Retreat (July 27, 2013; Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center)

The FRIDGE curriculum includes 4-6 hands-on activities in each of the following three sections:

1) Enhancing family communication about food

2) Learning together about food and nutrition

3) Working as a team to improve family eating practices

Insofar as the Villa Maria site is also home to a working CSA farm, participants were able to see, taste, and prepare new recipes using locally grown fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. The adults as well as the children were very excited by this chance to explore the farm-to-table connection.

As participants discussed issues related to food and family, some caregivers (parents, grandparents and other relatives raising children) were surprised to find out that their children not only supported the idea of eating more healthily, but they wanted more of a partnership role in family meals. The emphasis on family teamwork was evident in the food and family “contracts” that all family members developed and signed at the end of the retreat. One family’s contract read as follows:

“When buying food, we will work together to plan menus, make grocery lists, and shop together. When preparing food, we will split up duties and cook together as a family. When eating food, we will eat together as a family.”

Themes related to healthy eating and family unity were highlighted throughout the Retreat, including in the following poem written by an 11 year old boy and his mother as part of the FRIDGE “Dinnertime: What does it mean to eat together?”

Everyone is now at home; the table is set with shiny chrome

The food is ready and is warm; we have a special guest whose name is Norm

Everyone eat and talks as we munch on celery stalks

Look around, plates are clean, we clean the kitchen as a team

Momma made her special cake; we all helped her bake and bake

Let’s take the dog for a walk I really wish the dog could talk

We’d see our family from his view and then we’d know what changes to do.  

The FRIDGE Retreat program team included Fran Alloway, nutrition educator in the Delaware County Extension office, Janice Hassen (District Director), Bryan Dickinson (4-H educator) and Darlene Sansone (Better Kid Care Coordinator) - all working out of the Lawrence County Extension office, Sister Jeanne Thurin, Farm-based Environmental Educator at Villa Maria, and Matt Kaplan, Prof. of Intergenerational Programs and Aging at Penn State’s University Park campus. The weekend retreat was funded in part by PA Nutrition Education TRACKS, a component of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Click here for more information on the FRIDGE program.