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Table 1 Description of Simply Dinner components and research support for the inclusion of the components

From: Effectiveness of differing levels of support for family meals on obesity prevention among head start preschoolers: the simply dinner study

Intervention Component

Receipt of Food to Use at Home


Research Support

1. Meal Delivery (MD)


Prepared meal (lean protein, vegetable, fruit, whole grain) are delivered weekly to the home ready to heat and eat. Recipes provided.

Meal delivery may be especially important for low-income parents who lack cooking self-efficacy, skills and knowledge [65] and/or who are food insecure and cannot afford healthy foods, although meal delivery has primarily been tested only with elder adult populations [66].

2. Ingredient Delivery (ID)


Ingredients to make a meal at home (lean protein, vegetable, fruit, whole grain) are delivered weekly to the home. Recipes provided.

Cooperative Extension Systems across the country have begun to supply nutrition education participants with ingredients for recipes prepared during class with the intention that the participants will replicate the recipes at home [67, 68].

3. Community Kitchen (CK)


Participants attend a group session weekly to make meals (to be cooked at home) from ingredients with support from Extension educators. Recipes provided.

Hands-on cooking experiences have been linked to greater perceptions of self-efficacy in cooking at home [6870].

4. Didactic Healthy Eating Classes (POPS)


Participants attend a weekly group Preschool Obesity Prevention Series (POPS), developed in our prior work [62, 71] based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics [72, 73], is utilized. The class focuses on increasing intake and variety of fruits and vegetables and reduction of sugar-sweetened beverages. Lessons also address portion sizes and meal planning. Participants will make and taste a dish. Recipes provided. Educational enhancements (e.g., water bottle, children’s book about picky eating) provided.

Since 1969 Cooperative Extension systems across the nation have provided hands-on, interactive nutrition education lessons to low-income parents and other adult caregivers of young children. Today these learner-centered classes are often funded by the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, and other granting organizations. Didactic discussions are a core element of the sessions and are often combined with hands-on activities, food demonstrations and taste-testing. They have been found to be effective in improving dietary quality, food cost savings, and food safety for families [74, 75].

5. Cooking Demonstrations (CD)


Participants attend a weekly group to watch, listen and taste as the “chef” (Extension educator) describes and makes a main dish. Educational enhancements (e.g., spices) are provided. Recipes are provided.

Many nutrition education programs across the country have begun to integrate healthy food demonstrations by “chefs” into their nutrition education classes. Initial studies of some curricula that combine nutrition education with chef-led food demonstrations have shown positive changes in dietary quality [76], but research has not yet determined if the “chef” element is a major contributing factor to behavioral change in dietary quality and the preparation of healthy meals. Extension educators have been shown to be effective in scaffolding food preparation skills in parents [67]. [77]

6. Cookware/ Flatware Provision


Participants receive a new set of matching pans, measuring cups, and a new set of dishes and flatware for use in making and serving meals.

Research on the adequacy of low-income families’ cooking materials is mixed, with some studies showing adequate cookware in the home [78]. However, other studies find not only that low-income families lack basic cooking supplies [79] but that economic shifts have meant that they are less likely to spend limited funds on cookware and flatware [80]. Not having the necessary equipment to prepare meals at home could be a deterrent to healthy eating [79].