Friday, 17 February 2017

Weekly Column: Growing Healthy Families

Growing healthy families

Most parents will admit that it can be a struggle to have their kids in extra-curricular activities. Even when money isn’t an issue, fitting everything in is a challenge. Between practices, games or recitals, travel time and any volunteer commitments that come with the chosen sport or activity, there is little time left in a week to complete homework and have some relaxing downtime with family. Many of us are left wondering, how do they do it all?

There was a time in the local area where many families didn’t have to consider the cost of sports and activities for their kids—it was a given that they would sign up for any and all programs that the kids were interested in. But that wasn’t the case for everyone. Even in the best of times there were local families that had difficulty paying for high rent, the increasing cost of food, not to mention extra-curricular. Nowadays, more and more families fall into this category. The question is, then, how do you find the right balance of afterschool activities if you are finding it hard to pay for everything?

What do the professionals say? tells us that kids aged 1-4 should have 180 minutes of physical activity spread out through every day. Kids of all ages need a variety of activities that include inside and outside time, exploring, discovering and interacting with people of all ages.

Likewise, kids aged 5-17 need an accumulated 60 minutes/day of moderate-vigorous exercise as well as several hours every day of light activity that is both structured (guided) and unstructured. For school-aged kids one might expect that those objectives are being met in gym class and on the playground, but that doesn’t give parents the go ahead to park their kids in front of the TV or computer after school. Experts recommend that kids get no more than 2 hours of screen time/day, along with regular, uninterrupted hours of sleep. Ages 5-13 should be sleeping 9-11 hours every night and 14-17-year-olds should get 8-10 hours and everyone should stick to consistent bedtime/waketimes.

No pressure, parents, if you feel like there’s no way to manage it all. Focus on the fact that none of these essential activities need be organized or expensive. Playing dress up, building forts and trips to the park are as desirable as an organized sport. Family walks, playing catch, shinny or soccer together keeps you in touch with your kids at any age.

Follow their lead

This is not to dispute the fact that organized sports are good for kids. They inspire teamwork, build friendships and confidence and can be favorite childhood experiences. In fact, having kids on a team helps your whole family feel part of a larger community. Sit down with your kids and discuss what they are most interested in. If your child wishes to give a sport a try but you worry you can’t afford to make it happen, look up In 2015, Kidsport gave over $65,000 to help 327 kids in the Lloydminster area afford to play sports.

For Saskatchewan kids that might have a more creative side, parents don’t despair. They still need the outdoor and active time, but there are many ways to engage the little artist without stressing the family budget. Take part in library activities, check out camps at the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Centre, and google crafts and science experiments. Engage them with some sensory development doing finger paints, dancing to music and writing and illustrating their own stories. If they are interested in a more structured, organized class, check out to see if you are eligible for funding to help pay the fees.

It's up to you

Staying engaged with our kids, knowing what they are interested in and doing activities with them, will build their confidence and keep them communicating with you as they get older. Whether an activity costs money or not doesn’t determine the quality of the experience for your child. Do you talk it over with them? Do you show up to watch? Do you help them practice? In other words, do you take an active interest in what your kid is up to?

Midwest Family Connections has an array of activities for little people. The Lloydminster Library has stories and crafts, and visiting the library and reading together is one of the best things you can do with your kids at any age. The Lloydminster Community Youth Centre welcomes kids between ages 12 and 18, offering recreational activities, community supports and a safe place to make new friends. Your income may have taken a beating over the last few years, but that’s no reason why your kids can’t maintain healthy activities and be part of a larger community of like-minded people.   

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Weekly Column: Cooking Collectives Save Money

Cooking collectives save money

Not everyone leaves home knowing how to cook, nor how to shop for easy, healthy ingredients. On top of that, many families are smaller these days. Buying in bulk might not be feasible for an underemployed person supporting a spouse with, say, two small children. In many cases, there is considerable savings when buying in larger quantities. But what if you can’t afford that? On the flip side, if you normally cook for a number of people, there may be ways for you to save on groceries, time and effort. As we all know, it’s difficult to make changes and learn new skills, especially when you are under pressure. So how can people join together to address a basic need in the community—building the skills and buying power to enjoy healthy, affordable meals?

Collective or Community Kitchens

A Collective or Community Kitchen is a small group of people that gets together monthly to plan, shop for and cook meals. The members and leader meet based on their schedules and the availability of a space to cook in, and childcare if needed. Participants do contribute to the cost of the food and bring their own containers to take food home in.

A Collective Kitchen is an opportunity for people to learn more about safe food handling, eating a balanced diet, budgeting, and working together. In addition, it gets people out of their homes to plan, shop and cook together, building community while also giving people the chance to try new recipes and gain confidence in the kitchen.

Cooking at home

There is no way around it, if you can eat you need to learn to cook. It is a basic life skill, possibly one of the most important ones. Use a collective kitchen to inspire you to cook more at home. Yes, dishes and clean up can be a pain. It can be hard to find time to keep the fridge and pantry stocked. There is a drive thru on every corner these days and our bodies have become trained to crave those fast calories. But even without considering the budget, it is healthier and therefore very important to prepare food at home.  Once you factor in the cost of take out and ready to serve food, it should be clear that getting into a routine of cooking at home will help your waistline and your wallet as well. Participating in a Collective Kitchen is a step towards a healthier, more budget-friendly lifestyle.

A family affair

Would you like to encourage your kids to learn about nutrition, budgeting and cooking, but don’t know where to start? Kids in the Kitchen may be just what you are looking for. Allowing kids to take part in their own kid-centred group allows them to learn by doing and gives them a sense of accomplishment with every meal. You may find they are more willing to eat food that they have handled and helped to prepare. As an added benefit, your child may become more interested in helping in the kitchen and more appreciative of home cooked meals.

Increase your buying power

Food banks in Alberta and Saskatchewan report that usage is up significantly over the past couple years. People are struggling to make ends meet and that includes keeping good food on the table. Luckily, there is a local program that might help, called the Fresh Food Box. At $10 for a small box and $15 for a large, this is an affordable way for families to purchase quality fresh produce. You also receive a recipe in every order. Order your Fresh Food Box on the first and third Thursday of every month (at #201-5001-50 Ave). Pick up is on the second and forth Thursday of the month at the Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre (4602-49th Ave).

There are so many benefits

Most cultures celebrate by cooking and eating together. As social media takes the place of face to face interaction, some of those family and community connections are being lost. Along with them are lost the joy of sharing, the pride of displaying what you have created, and the pleasure of companionship. Collectively purchasing ingredients and preparing food is a great way to reconnect with your community and meet new people. It is also a great way to introduce your family to new recipes and working together in the kitchen.

Collective Kitchens are suited to many different groups, whether it be kids, new or expecting moms, seniors, those with special needs or even those with special dietary concerns. Cooking and eating together with people from your community fosters friendship and co-operation.

For more information on Collective Kitchens, Kids in the Kitchen or the Fresh Food Box in Lloydminster, contact Midwest Food Resources at 306 825 2606 or