While many studies look at the nutritional aspects of food, few explore the other social and cultural benefits it brings to people.
This year, VCH partnered with the United Way in a study called Let’s Eat!, looking at how food acts as a cultural catalyst, a facilitator of positive social change.
“We understand how food is great in terms of nutrition and whatnot, but we wanted to look at how it plays a greater role in people’s lives,” explains Jonathan Choi, a senior environmental health officer at VCH, “We wanted to understand it in terms of social interaction and healthy lifestyle promotion. Food can be used as tool to bring people together and as a cultural equalizer, facilitating social interaction.”VCH acted as research committee member with United Way to advise on the conduct of the study, looking at 19 childhood, parenting and seniors community agencies that aren’t food-related, but serve food in their programs and workshops.
The study found that food is a good healthy lifestyle promotion tool (physical activity and healthy eating habits), that food increases social interaction among people and participation in the programs and that it increases food literacy, empowering people to learn about where their food comes from and how to cook it.Criteria for the eligible programs included:
- They’re not food security focused
- They’ve served 1,000 or more meals or snacks between 2013 and 2014
- They focus on an even distribution of programs serving both vulnerable populations such as children and seniors as well as the general population
“It was nice to see this information coming to the forefront - that people are understanding food is not just about nutrition, it’s about culture, it’s about being a social equalizer, it improves social interactions,” Jonathan says. “The study showed that this was recurring theme amongst participants, across many different services and programs.”Read more
about why food matters in a healthy lifestyle.