Food Skills for Families

Cooking healthy food that is tasty and appealing to our families can be confusing and is not always easy. Adding to the challenge is the fact that some families have limited incomes or do not even have basic information about where to start. Drawing on the strengths of two existing programs – Cooking Fun for Families and Cooking for Your Life! – the Canadian Diabetes Association developed a program to enhance skills necessary for choosing and preparing healthy foods. New programming, promotion, venues and training for community-based facilitators ensure the program reaches those who need it most. Building on community strengths is what BC Alliance for Healthy Living is all about.


The Food Skills for Family (FSF) program is a hands-on six-session weekly cooking program that teaches healthy eating, shopping and cooking skills to at risk populations.  The curriculum is written to meet the unique needs of each of the four target populations: Aboriginal, new immigrant, Punjabi and low income families. It involves a learning component and hands-on cooking in each 3-hour session.

Session 1:  Variety for Healthy Eating
Session 2:  Fabulous Fruits, Vegetable and Whole Grain Goodness
Session 3:  Meat and Alternatives, Milk and Alternatives and Healthy Fats
Session 4:  Planning Healthy Meals, Snacks and Beverages
Session 5:  Savvy Shopping (Grocery Store Tour)
Session 6:  Celebration!

Visit the Food Skills for Families website for more information.

Community Facilitators

Community consultation identified the need to build community capacity by training lay individuals to teach healthy eating and cooking skills rather than to rely on the availability of limited professional resources. A Train-the-Trainer Mentorship Program was developed whereby Master Trainers, with representation from each health region of the province, train Community Facilitators across the province to deliver the Food Skills for Families program in host organizations and schools throughout BC. Twelve training sessions took place within the first year of the program. To date, 143 Community Facilitators have been trained throughout BC.


A standardized, best practice curriculum was written to meet the unique needs of each of the target populations: Aboriginal, new immigrant Punjabi and low income.  There is a Facilitator Manual and Participant Handbook for each target population.

Through a funding partnership from the Fraser Heath Authority, the Food Skills for Families program partnered with the Canadian Diabetes Association Fraser Valley Office to produce an in-language DVD based on the Punjabi curriculum to further serve this community. The DVD is provided to participants of the Punjabi FSF program and widely distributed FHA region.

Outcome and Evaluation

Food Skills for Families has delivered over 140 programs since September 2008. A formal evaluation was undertaken to assess the impact of the program. All participants complete a pre and post evaluation to measure the skills and confidence gained through program participation. Telephone surveys were also conducted with some participants to assess if changes were sustained a few months after taking the FSF program and four focus groups were hosted to further assess the program impact.

Post evaluations compare to pre evaluations revealed significantly higher levels of knowledge about healthier choices (i.e. what foods are healthy to eat, what beverages are healthy to drink, where to buy healthy foods) and improved skills and confidence to cook and prepare nutritious and appetizing meals, keep food safe, plan meals, shop and modify recipes to make healthier choices.

There is early indication of a trend to positive behaviour changes with more respondents indicating at the conclusion of the program that they are eating five or more fruits and vegetables every day; choosing whole grains over white bread or refined cereals; choosing water over other beverages most days or every day; changing recipes to lower fat; and frying foods less often.

Respondents all indicated that they learned a great deal from the program, prepared the new recipes at home for their families and would highly recommend the program to others.  These results have a wider reach to family members.

Sustaining the Programs

Initial funding of the Food Skills for Families program will conclude March 31, 2011. However, the Canadian Diabetes Association remains committed to continuing this vital skills development program and is therefore exploring future new funding sources.

Contact Information

For more information visit the Food Skills for Families website and for access to the Four Food Skills for Families curriculum and manuals please contact the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Leanne Morgan
Senior Manager, Community Programs and Partnerships
Food Skills for Families

360 – 1385 West 8th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6H 3V9
Phone: 604.732.1331 ext. 277