A Conversation in Cultural Relevancy- Summer Food

summer photo“The lunch truck is here, the lunch truck is here,” exclaimed many excited children during my recent visit to Shadow Tree Apartments; a Summer Food Service Program mobile site, located in Aurora, Colorado.  Upon this pronouncement, most of the children put down their balls and paint brushes and jump ropes in order to get in line for this much anticipated meal. On the menu for that day was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; a lunch most American children would recognize immediately and embrace with joy.  However, on this day, the PB & J sandwich was met with a bit of confusion and uncertainty.  This response wasn’t due to the sandwich appearing unappetizing, but rather due to the majority of the children at this site originating from foreign nations.  The PB & J sandwich was a foreign concept to many of them and turned into an eye-opening experience for me.  While the value of this meal was not diminished by the children’s misunderstanding, it was greatly increased by adult volunteers modeling for the children just how to construct a PB & J sandwich from scratch; a practice in cultural relevancy that was much needed.

This experience shed light on the increasing importance of engaging in cultural relevancy at all levels of the Summer Food Service Program; a concept of great importance to Hunger Free Colorado.  Fortunately, cultural relevancy doesn’t need to cost a thing and can become practice immediately.  With regard to the Summer Food Service Program, cultural relevancy strongly promotes working with your food vendor to diversify meal options, a willingness to teach program participants how to eat certain foods, modeling for program participants what foods go together, for instance, peanut butter and jelly, and choosing to engage program participants in activities like soccer and art, that span geographic borders in popularity.  Additionally, cultural relevancy strongly promotes adult initiative, in regard to engaging children from diverse backgrounds in both conversation and play, especially upon a child’s first few visits to a site.  To illustrate this point further, let us return to the Summer Food Service Program at the Shadow Tree Apartments.  As a daily goal, adult initiated interaction with program participants has become an established practice.  This practice has not only propelled the Shadow Tree Apartments site toward greater cultural relevancy but has proven to be the key ingredient in their tremendous success as a site.

Please let us know about any additional practices in cultural relevancy that you are finding helpful at your Summer Food Service Program site, as more and more we strive to meet the need of hunger-vulnerability throughout our communities.

The Summer Food Service Program at Shadow Tree Apartments was established by the Colfax Community Network, sponsored by Food Bank of the Rockies and is serviced by Lunchbox Express. To donate enrichment items to this site, such as art supplies and recreation balls, please contact Andrea Garcia at: andrea@hungerfreecolorado.org.

 Andrea Garcia is a Summer Food Service Program Consultant for Hunger Free Colorado.

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