Office of Research

Strengthening Families through the Family Resiliency Center

Strengthening Families

The U of I’s Family Resiliency Center (FRC), headed by Barbara H. Fiese, professor of human development and family studies, is working to strengthen families through its many programs.

The Christopher Family Foundation’s mission is to build positive connections between food and family life to promote healthy eating, preserve family traditions, and build stronger relationship's with an emphasis on children and youth. The Food and Family Program takes a strengths-based approach to life's challenges and believes that the most effective programming is built on the assets that each family brings to the table.

  • Abriendo Caminos. This program involves entire Latino families in culturally sensitive activities during a six-week long workshop series. The sessions promote healthy eating, positive family interactions, and active living in immigrant families with school-age children. More than 90 families have taken part in the workshop series to date. The FRC is evaluating the efficacy of the program; preliminary findings support our belief that this approach can increase healthy behaviors in Spanish-speaking families.
  • The BackPack Program in east central Illinois. Millions of school-age children in the United States experience food insecurity as a result of living in households without access to enough food to maintain a healthy, active life. The BackPack Program was designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other resources are not available, such as weekends and school vacations. Food banks partner with local schools who help identify children at-risk for hunger. They are provided with child-friendly, easy-to-prepare food that is discreetly distributed to children on Friday afternoon.
  • Mealtime Minutes.  Mealtime Minutes is an initiative that provides real solutions to common shared family mealtime challenges. Research suggests that family mealtimes can boost children's health and wellbeing, reduce risk of obesity, improve nutrient intake, and promote language development and academic achievement. Recent research also indicates that families want to spend more time sharing a meal together but that they face multiple barriers. Mealtime Minutes will help families develop effective strategies to address these challenges and create quality shared time together. Materials that address this challenge will include Public Service Announcement videos, tip sheets, and conversation cards. They will be developed using evidence-based research and will be based on principles of positive parenting.
  • STRONG Kids Program.  The STRONG Kids Program is a comprehensive approach to the study of childhood obesity and health within an ecological framework. Researchers are examining how genetic, family, community, child care provider, cultural, and media factors contribute to the development of childhood weight imbalance, obesity, health behaviors, and health beliefs. Findings will serve as the basis for obesity prevention and intervention programs.

    The research team includes investigators from the following disciplines: communication, human and community development, food science and human nutrition, kinesiology and community health, social work, medicine, and U of I Extension. The study sample includes 400 preschool-aged children enrolled in child care programs and their families in small urban communities in Illinois. All families complete an extensive panel survey; height, weight, and saliva samples also are collected from the children enrolled in the study.

Projects will focus on specific variables such as children’s media exposure and nutritional knowledge; parent-child relationships as potential moderators of health practices; families’ health literacy as it relates to weight management and body image; the role of child care providers in promoting healthy eating; the impact of food marketing and promotion on food choices; the interaction of genetic, social, and behavioral risk factors; and evidence-based outreach efforts.