We prioritize offering our programming for parents and caregivers of children in the 0 to 5 age range who are living in the highest needs communities in Massachusetts.
Cooking Matters Massachusetts plans to offer 95% of its course programming to adults to ensure that we are reaching the population most likely to make lasting behavior changes. Additionally, all Cooking Matters at the Store grocery store tours will be focused on reaching adults who would benefit most from learning to more strategically use their food resources.
Why Moms of Young Kids Matter
Share Our Strength is working to ensure that every child in America has access to nutritious food where he or she lives, learns, and plays. Focusing on where kids live, Cooking Matters provides food skills education to parents, family members, and caregivers who impact the eating habits of children.
Especially important in this equation are moms of young children (ages 5 and under). These moms are in a crucial position when it comes to their child’s eating habits and health. They hold a heavy influence over family food decisions, from shopping to meal prep, and are often more open to making lasting changes toward a healthier lifestyle. Early childhood is also a time when access to nutritious food is integral to growth and development and has long-lasting implications for lifelong healthy relationships with food.
Moms make the food decisions
Mothers are responsible for most food purchase decisions and meal preparation. According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, in a two-adult household, nearly 80% of females identify themselves as the person who usually does the grocery shopping. Almost 80% of females also identified themselves as the person who usually does the meal preparation.
In a one-adult household, females identify themselves as responsible for food purchase decisions 98% of the time and meal preparation 94% of the time.
Young moms make bigger changes.
New mothers are particularly open to behavior change. Research shows that first-time moms tend to make the biggest improvements in positive eating behaviors, like eating breakfast every day and eating fruits and vegetables. Lower-income moms also make bigger changes than higher-income moms.
Young children are at a crucial development stage…
The brain undergoes dramatic development during the early childhood years, building cognitive, social, and emotional capacity along with advancement in language and motor skills. According to the World Health Organization, “Early childhood is the most intensive period of brain development during the lifespan. Adequate stimulation and nutrition are essential for development during the first three years of life.”
…and are highly vulnerable to poverty and poor nutrition.
Children ages 0 to 5 are more vulnerable to the effects of poverty, especially those that live in a single-mother household. According to U.S. Census data, in 2011 the poverty rate for children under 6 was 24.5% (compared to 21.4% for all children under 18). For children under 6 living in a single-mother household, the poverty rate more than doubled to 57.2%.
Children in this age range are also vulnerable to unhealthy dietary patterns and the health consequences associated with these habits. A national survey of the dietary habits of 3,022 infants and toddlers between the ages of 7 and 24 months found, on an average day, 18-33% consumed no servings of vegetables and 23-33% consumed no servings of fruit. French fries were the most commonly consumed vegetable among children aged 15 to 24 months. A study of the nation’s 3.8 million preschool children served by WIC programs in state health departments found that 26% were overweight.
Early habits last a lifetime.
Children’s dietary preferences and intake are influenced by early experiences with food. Studies show children introduced to fruits and vegetables early on tend to have healthier diets throughout childhood. Little change occurs in dietary patterns from the preschool years into early adolescence, and childhood diet is a significant determinant of adult diet.