** Published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP) 15.4, December 2021. All rights reserved.**
Background: The school meals program provides food during the week, but there is limited evidence on how to address the needs of families with food insecurity (FI) on the weekend.
Objectives: We conducted a prospective mixed methods pilot study to evaluate the potential effect of a community-based program that delivers free meals to children and fresh produce to their families at different sites on weekends combined with cooking classes.
Methods: We recruited 41 parent-child dyads from the neighborhood where a new delivery site opened. We assessed the change in children’s fruit and vegetable intake and parental anxiety before and after the site opened. We conducted interviews with parents/guardians to understand perceptions of the program and how to more effectively address families’ needs.
Results: The majority of parents/guardians were non-Hispanic Black (90.5%) and had food insecurity (87.8%). We found a non-significant increase in the intake of fruit/vegetable servings per day from baseline (mean=3.39) to follow-up (mean=3.88; p=0.41), but no change in parental anxiety. In interviews, we identified three major themes: (1) FI affects food quality and multiple generations care for children; (2) the program provided relief to parents/guardians, allowing them to eat healthier; and (3) the need for multigenerational programs and broader policy changes to address FI.
Conclusions: Although further research is needed, a community-based program combining food delivery with cooking classes may assist families with food insecurity. Participants reported that the program provided relief, helping them eat healthier. Multigenerational programs and broader policy changes are needed to further address FI.