When a leader of a local Baptist church made a plea to teach young people the value of casseroles, I knew we were on to something.
It turns out the casserole, long a staple of church suppers, may be the ultimate example of a do-it-yourself family food experience. The casserole is about efficiency, relying on the know-how to organize multiple, seasonal ingredients into a dish that will stretch the family food dollar. Every casserole is a teaching moment, pulling the kids into the kitchen to learn alternatives to drive-through fast food. The casserole is about friends and family, as parents traditionally kept a couple in the freezer to give to a neighbor suffering a hardship. All roads to a new food system run through the casserole.
In our food initiative, led by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, we had initially used vocabulary from public health — lots of talk about food deserts and food insecurity, all supported by maps. Not a mention of casseroles.
The residents we aimed to serve, however, talked about food in different ways. And what we learned from residents helped us re-imagine our strategy. What emerged — the Georgia Food Oasis campaign — is now helping families across the state pursue their own ideas of how to eat, cook, and grow more fruits and vegetables.