Family Nights Out Resources at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley

Published July 18, 2016 | Updated July 31, 2017
Place of Learning: Kitchen
Resource Type: Program Management
Grade Level: Adults/Professionals
Uploaded by:
Kyle Cornforth
Program Affiliations:

This resource contains a general description of the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley's Family Nights Out program, as well as an example of the registration form and post-survey we give to participants.


A typical Family Nights Out class at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley is from 5:30pm – 7:30pm and emphasizes the cooking and eating dinner together. The basic format of a Family Nights Out class mirrors a typical kitchen class, however at Family Nights Out classes we prepare an entire meal. Participants in our Family Nights Out classes range in age and kitchen confidence. Our classes are flexible and adaptable, appealing to students, parents, toddlers, and grandparents alike. 

Entering the Kitchen (ongoing)

As participants enter the kitchen, we welcome the families and have each person put on a name-tag and sign a raffle ticket. There is a bowl of seasonal fruit by the door for people to snack on. Because parents get off work at different times, and have to commute from various places, most participants trickle in over the course of the first 15-30 minutes. 

At the Chef Meeting (10 minutes)

The Chef Meeting is where we introduce our menu for the family class. We typically prepare three recipes per table, and menus reflect what the students are currently learning in their regular kitchen classes. A standard Family Nights Out menu contains a balance of grains, vegetables, and protein.

  1. Introduce the staff and the menu for the evening. Review basic kitchen rules and systems.

  2. Explain why each recipe was chosen for the class (i.e., simplicity, nutrition, cost, etc.) and how each recipe contributes to creating a balanced and complete meal.

  3. Emphasize the kitchen skills and life skills in each recipe and discuss possible variations on the menu.

  4. Address how to use the leftover ingredients in other recipes (i.e., what can you make with leftover beans? How can you use extra sweet potato?)

  5. If applicable, discuss budgeting issues and cost effectiveness.

  6. Take questions.

At the Table

After the Chef Meeting, have participants wash their hands and break up into three cooking groups. If possible, keep each family together. Groups should have an average of 10 participants, 1 ESY kitchen teacher, and 1-2 community volunteers.

  1. Review the recipes and introduce knife skills and cooking methods (5-10 minutes):

    1. Demonstrate how participants are going to prepare each ingredient on the platter. Identify the various tools that can be used depending on the age, skill level, and confidence of each cook.

    2. Break down the steps of the recipes and explain the cooking jobs.

  2. Check-in and assign cooking jobs (5 minutes)

    1. Have each participant answer a “check-in” question (i.e., What’s your favorite recipe to cook at home?). This can be a fun or provocative question that may or may not have anything to do with food, but will allow the families to get to know each other.

    2. Have the participants identify the cooking job(s) they would like to work on for the evening

  3. Cook and set the table (60 minutes)

    1. Participants review the recipes together before breaking up into their cooking jobs.

    2. Encourage everyone to taste as they cook and adjust the seasoning along the way.

    3. When the participants are done preparing the ingredients and the food is still cooking, participants clean and set the table. We typically use dinner plates, silverware, cups, and napkins, and, like in a regular kitchen class, participants are encouraged to create a unique centerpiece using flowers from the garden and other interesting items they find around the kitchen.

  4. Eat  (20-30 minutes)

    1. Since the families prepare an entire dinner, the Family Nights Out classes allot more time for eating and conversation.  This is also a great opportunity to discuss modifications of the menu and possible adaptations for the recipes.

  5. Clean up (5 minutes)

    1. When the meal is winding down, we talk about how the cleanup process will work. We have participants bus their own plate, cup and silverware to the bussing station, a group will start to work on washing dishes, while others clean the tables and cooking stations.

   6. Closing / Something Sweet (5 minutes)

  1. Once most of the clean up is done, we ask all participants to make a circle around the middle table and hold our raffle.  Raffle items are mostly donated items, and range from Edible Schoolyard t-shirts, harvested items from the garden, oils, and sauces to cast iron pots and pans.
  2. We pass around a try of seasonal fruit and dates while everyone shares something sweet about their experience in class.

ESY Strategies For Successful Community Engagement

The following is a list of considerations and strategies that have been effective for us in engaging our community. This is not comprehensive or exhaustive, but we hope it offers you some ideas for ways to engage your own communities.

Student Involvement

  • Make time to get to know your students in class. They are your first line into what is going on for their families. What do families do? How do they like to spend their evenings or weekends?

  • Engage students as advocates for your program. Make sure they have the information they need to be excited about your program and events and be able to bring their families and friends along.

  • Engage with students of various ages. Schools are always looking for organizations where students can do community hours. Check with your local high school or college to see if there might be students you can partner with.

Family & Trusted Adults Outreach

  • Be cautious of situating your program or events in any way that could make people feel unwelcome because of their culture, beliefs, practices, or way of life. This is especially important with food because everyone’s relationship to food is different and so personal - take the opportunity to learn from others as opposed to make judgments or declarations about what is good or what people should do.

  • Spread the word far and wide in as many different forms as possible (phone calls, emails, fliers, announcements, word of mouth, talking to students etc.). Different people will have different ways of receiving information and by diversifying your form of communication, you will reach a more diverse group of stakeholders.

  • Make a personal connection whenever possible - call people, talk face-to-face. This is so much more personal than just an email or flier.

  • Think about how to make your events accessible for everyone regardless of economic situation (tiered pricing and free options at every event)

  • Offer incentives to people who do come (raffle at FNO, extra credit for students who attend, raffle tickets for students at Plant Sale)

  • Solicit feedback. Always ask, offer surveys for people who do attend your events to improve your programming.

School & Broader Community

  • Familiarize yourself with the broader community, build your network.

  • Figure out who your potential stakeholders are - what groups already exist that you can draw in?

  • Is there anyone already doing community organizing that could help bring people into your program?

  • Show up to community events, get to know people.

  • Do you have people who speak other languages that can connect with communities that don’t primarily speak English?

  • Try to say ‘Yes’ - think very hard before saying ‘no’ to somebody. Is there any way you can accommodate a request or support a new idea?

  • Take advantage of gatherings of people. If you’re at a school, ask teachers if you can talk to kids in class, or visit a community event and drop off fliers. Go to sports meetings and banquets, PTA meetings.

  • Get to know your PTA.

  • Talk to local businesses and organizations or rotary club that are willing to give donations (swag etc.) that you can offer as raffle prizes.

  • Coordinate with important cultural events in your community - host a party for Halloween if that is something special where you live, or offer potlucks for the end-of-year celebrations.

  • Make your event somewhere that people build community with one another. This is not about you and your organization, this is about building community and making sure people have a good time.

Family Nights Out Survey

After attending Family Nights Out: Yes or No

  • I have a greater understanding of what my student does and learns at the Edible Schoolyard

  • I feel more connected to the King community after attending the Family Nights Out classes

  • I learned new techniques, skills, or recipes that I am excited to bring into my kitchen

  • I learned something new about my student’s eating habits and preferences

  • I enjoyed the process of cooking collaboratively with my family

  • I am excited by how confident and competent my student was in the kitchen.

  • I am more likely to trust in my student to cook and help cook at home.

  • I am more likely to cook collaboratively with my family in the future.

  • I would be interested in attending another Family Nights Out in the future.

  • I would recommend Family Nights Out to friends and family.

How was your experience with using the lottery system?

Any comments, thoughts, or feedback about your experience at Family Nights Out?


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