Some of the most marginalized populations in Lebanon are Palestinian refugees who have high levels of poverty and food insecurity. The latter has been shown to threaten dietary diversity, nutritional status, as well as mental and social health.
In this context, researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in collaboration with researchers at the University of Maryland led the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Children intervention.
This intervention established women-led community kitchens as social enterprises and linked them to a school food program, with the aim of improving women's livelihoods and children's diets at school. Researchers conducted process, formative and outcome evaluations, with two papers recently published on the lessons learned from the program, and on the effect of the intervention on participating women.
The first paper describes the design and impact pathway of the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Children program and highlights the importance of participatory approaches to successfully designing such interventions. Key successes of the program's implementation include high acceptability by children and the involvement of multiple community stakeholders in the program, whereas the key challenge to scale-up remained sustainability in a context where various social and structural barriers persisted. Read more
A second paper focuses on the potential impacts of this community-based intervention on participating women's household economic and food security status, decision making ability, mental health and social support. Used a mixed-methods approach, prior to implementation and after 8-months of participation, researchers found a 13 percent increase in household expenditure and a significant reduction in food insecurity score. Women also reported that the kitchens provided them with financial support in addition to a space to form social bonds, discuss personal issues and share experiences. Read more
When taken together, the findings from this study lend insight into the design and potential of community kitchens among low income, food insecure populations; refugee or migrant populations; and women with limited formal work experience.