Participants at “Chopped,” a family skills seminar hosted by Catholic Community Services, enjoy pizza they helped to make at the July 19 event. (Photo courtesy of Ginger Smith/Catholic Community Services)

What can making a pizza teach you about building a stronger family?

According to Robyn Rozario, quite a bit.

That’s why Rozario, a family services coordinator with Catholic Community Services (CCS), gathered some 25 adults at a Northeast Philadelphia kitchen for a July 19 lesson in cooking and communication.

Sponsored by CCS, a division of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), “Chopped” divided participants into teams, which prepared pizzas while learning about – and using – key skills for improved parenting.

A panel of CCS staff judged the finished products, awarding culinary-themed prizes to the winners.

For Rozario, a cooking enthusiast who caters several CCS events, the lunchtime session was a chance to “spice up” a lesson in five protective factors that can prevent child abuse: social and emotional competence, knowledge of parenting and child development, social connections, concrete support and resilience.

The factors are part of the Strengthening Families program, an internationally recognized social services model originally developed in the 1980s by psychologist Karol L. Kumpfer. CSS utilizes the program – which has been widely implemented throughout the United States — at a number of its outreaches, including its CCS and Out of School Time (OST) sites.

While slicing and dicing pizza toppings, Rozario drilled down on the five protective factors, stressing their power to transform family dynamics.

“The integration of food and working in teams while learning strategies to help families be healthy and strong was a great recipe,” said Rozario. “These factors are applicable to our everyday experiences.”

The event also enabled participants to learn more about CCS’s mission, programs and supportive services for children and families.

Staff judged a friendly pizza-making competition at a July 19 family skills seminar hosted by Catholic Community Services. (Photo courtesy of Ginger Smith/Catholic Community Services)

“This was a fun, interactive time,” said Ginger Smith, community liaison for CCS. “It really illuminated valuable tools that can help families to recognize their strengths, and to empower them to push through and triumph over adversity.”

Smith added that while the July 19 session was the first offered by CCS, “Chopped” would be added to the agency’s regular menu of programming.

“We’re already planning more spin-offs that would engage specific audiences, such as families and teens,” she said. “It’s a great recipe.”