We Heart Dad's Night Out!

Hosted by Island Health with several local partners, this program is a free weekly drop-in for dads (that’s right, DADS!) to come together with their kids for a fun night out.

We recently heard about a Vancouver Island-based program call Dad's Night Out and couldn’t wait to tell you about it! Hosted by Island Health with several local partners, this program is a free weekly drop in for dads (that’s right, DADS!) to come together with their kids for a fun night out. The idea is to both encourage a healthy lifestyle among fathers and their children and to promote literacy. But most importantly, it’s about bonding... and sometimes food. Here we reach out to Helene Dufour, Vancouver Island's Community Nutritionist, to learn more. Enjoy!

Better Together: Most drop-in programs we come across are tailored to moms. How did your Dad's Night Out program get started and why the focus on dads?

Hélène Dufour: We had heard about similar dad-focused programs in Parksville and Qualicum and were intrigued. We hadn’t had a lot of dad engagement in our existing programs (in Port Alberni) so we decided to develop one with an invitation just for dads.

BT: Has the dad-specific invitation successfully appealed to the dads in your community?

HD: Definitely. And, of course, the actual programming has been a big hit with the dads. For example, we go hiking at a local nature trail, swimming at the pool, and skating at the Multiplex. We offer Star Wars nights at the library, floor hockey with the local Junior Hockey team, the list goes on. By focusing the program specifically to the dads, we are thrilled with the number of dads we see at Dad’s Night Out! 

BT: Tell us about the food connection.

HD: On two of the program nights, we focus on cooking together.  The dads make a healthy pizza together with their kids, learn about the benefits of family meals and enjoy eating together.  Many dads express their surprise at the information they are learning, especially about the benefits of eating together.  As a community nutritionist for Island Health, I lead the event with my community partners and answer nutrition-related questions. 

BT: You recently shared the very awesome Let's Talk dinner conversation starter cards with us (which people can download here). Can you tell us more about how and why these were developed?

HD: The Let’s Talk cards were developed to help foster interaction between dads and kids, not only in the program but long-term in their day-to-day lives. Two years ago I had been running a series of workshops about the benefits of eating together as part of our Eating Together Campaign. In speaking with some of the parents at these events, they admitted that one of the reasons they didn’t eat with their kids very often was because they found it stressful, particularly in trying to have meaningful conversations.  They just didn’t know how to make the family meal a positive experience. So I approached our local Community Development Health Worker with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and she agreed to participate in a project to create “conversation cards”.  We consulted with many professionals, as well as many parents and kids, to come up with the actual questions. We then made the cards out of the 30 most popular questions, adding information on the back of the cards about the benefits and importance of family meals.  Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council designed the cards, and we are very happy with how they turned out! 

Thanks Hélène. What an excellent program and great service to your community.  

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To our community here at Better Together, if any of you decide to download the Let’s Talk conversation cards (found here) be sure to let us know which questions worked best for your family! And if you're interested in starting a program like this for the dads in your community, let us know and we can connect you with Hélène Dufour for tips or input. 

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