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PRIME TIME Plus Adds Healthy Nutrition to Family Reading

Ongoing innovation, research, and program refinement are hallmarks of the PRIME TIME Family Reading Time

program. The program’s newest iteration, PRIME TIME Plus, shines a light on one of the nation’s most needed solutions for low income families: nutrition education and healthy eating practices.

The PRIME TIME Plus model, designed to promote solid family-centered foundational skills in early literacy, added a Healthy Eating Coordinator to provide nutrition education for families that are vulnerable to academic and health illiteracy. And the new model is working.

Evaluation data from the 2015 pilot program’s focus groups revealed surprising results for both parents/caregivers and children. Adults, who at the outset said their children would not eat fruits and vegetables, came to the realization that their own attitudes about food were the primary deterrent to their children’s healthy choices. Further, when parents/caregivers were introduced to preparation methods for new vegetables and fruits, their resistance changed to enthusiasm that they were able to provide better nutrition for their families. Some favorite foods cited were snow peas, kale, asparagus, parsnips, zucchini and melon.

Families enjoy new food choices through take-home samples each week.
Families enjoy new food choices through take-home samples each week.

Parents/caregivers also said that their children were holding the adults “accountable” for serving them! One family reported that during grocery shopping, their children related the stories read during PRIME TIME sessions as they identified the foods. And families are now comparing label information as criteria for buying, according to the evaluation.

All told, family responses showed that fear of wasting food due to not knowing preparation methods – not food prices – had been the biggest obstacle to healthy eating. The children are continuing to identify foods in grocery stores because they have experienced them in PRIME TIME Plus sessions, and are asking for them at home. And families are continuing to prepare recipes learned in the program. One parent reported that she now “has an expectation of flavor” in food choices. The combination of family/community bonding, learning to read together, and healthy lifestyle education contributed to life changing experiences for the families in PRIME TIME Plus.