Little Havana nonprofit brings children, healthy cooking together

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – It isn’t easy for most parents to convince their kids to eat nutrient-rich foods. ConnectFamilias, a Miami-Dade nonprofit which serves mostly Hispanic families and promotes opportunities for children, came up with a clever way to help parents by pure happenstance during a pre-pandemic food distribution.

“We noticed that there were bushels of okra and that families were not touching it,” said Betty Alonso, President and CEO of ConnectFamilias. “What became evident is that they were unfamiliar with our local fruits and vegetables.”

It was then that an idea sparked. The organization created Play with Food events, which convened children and parents and utilized all five senses in food preparation. As it turns out, scientific research shows tactile sensitivity might play a role in the acceptance of food, especially healthy foods. The more children touch a certain type of food, the more familiar they become with it, and are likely to taste it and enjoy it.

We saw this first-hand. As part of our Food for Thought initiative, Local 10 and Publix collaborated with ConnectFamilias to host a Play with Food event. Clad in chef’s hats and aprons, about a dozen kids, with their parents acting as sous chefs, blended fruit smoothies and assembled tuna pitas with hass avocadoes. For dessert, they prepared banana sushi, a colorful concoction of the tropical fruit inside a tortilla smothered with peanut butter and Nutella. Their gloved hands were covered with all the ingredients.

“My kids are transitioning into cooking and this is a great experience for them,” said mom of three, Taina Lopez.

“What do you think about this experience?” asked Local 10 Community Relations Director Mayte Padron.

Grace Alberto, 9, responded with “It’s fun.”

Padron followed with another question. “If you were in a grocery store, would you choose these foods?” Grace said, “Yeah, because they’re healthy, they’re good for you.”

The goal of Local 10′s Food for Thought campaign is for kids to have access to good foods and good family experiences.

For more information on ConnectFamilias, visit

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