Food for Thought: Children learning from menus, recipes, and shopping lists

9/1/2015 – 8/31/2016


Food routines are an ecocultural asset of Latino families. This cluster randomized trial involved 248 children (M age = 67 months; 50% girls; 13 schools) and investigated the impact of a four-week family program that aimed to improve Latino kindergarteners’ outcomes by leveraging family food routines. There were moderate-to-large impacts on child vocabulary and narrative skills (i.e., ability to tell a story) at end-of-treatment and the 5-month follow-up, and suggestive evidence of moderate impacts on approaches to learning (i.e., engagement and motivation in learning tasks) and executive function at the 5-month follow-up (ds ranged from 0.38 to 1.76). There were no statistically significant impacts on children’s literacy or math skills. A cost analysis showed that costs required by the schools to implement the FFT program were relatively low ($3,711 per school, or $247 per family with one child -in 2020 dollars) compared to other literacy programs implemented in schools. These findings suggest that the FFT program is accessible to implement for schools at a relatively low cost. In addition, these findings have important implications for education and policy. FFT has the potential to mold aspects of the Latino community’s practices into durable, compounding improvements in critical outcomes (i.e., vocabulary, narrative skills, approaches to learning and executive function) that matter to school success while respecting and elevating the richness of Latino family life.