Family meals were the routine and not the exception when growing up on the farm. Over the years, work and travel schedules have definitely impacted the frequency of family meals for my husband and me. And we didn’t have the influx of children’s sports and school activities to juggle! Unfortunately, finding time for meals was not the norm for many families until we all had to slow down over the past seven months. A new study conducted in August by the FMI Foundation shows that Americans are using family meals to stay strong — physically and emotionally — during the global pandemic; and they plan to continue this positive practice when the world returns to a new normal.
This study validates earlier findings published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB) in January, which demonstrated the undeniable value of family meals. The study — funded by the FMI Foundation, the organization that founded National Family Meals MonthTM — showed that more frequent family meals were associated with better dietary and family functioning outcomes.
The August study by FMI was a nationally represented sample of American adults. It confirmed that family meals have been a stronghold for all of us during the pandemic, and that “families” are made up of all combinations. The stereotypes are gone! Some interesting insights include:
- Family meals keep us connected: 71% of those who have been eating more in-person meals and 70% of those eating with others through “virtual meals” agree that they have felt more connected to their families since the start of the pandemic.
- As a result of the global pandemic, Americans are cooking more and having more family meals. An incredible 94% stated they are cooking the same amount or more than before the pandemic. And three out of four Americans report they are having the same amount or more family meals, both in-person and virtually.
- People appreciate the emotional benefits from breaking bread together. Almost eight our of 10 Americans reported positive sentiments about family meals, noting they were “high points of the day” or an important part of the household routine.
- Americans recognize the nutrition advantages of eating together. More than one-third stated they eat better and four out of 10 said that the food they eat is more balanced or healthier than when they eat alone.
Finally, the study shows there can be some positive outcomes from this pandemic. Almost nine out of 10 Americans plan on eating family meals more often, or the same amount as they did before the pandemic, when things return to a new normal. As David Fikes, executive director of the FMI Foundation notes, “Whatever our new normal will be, we need to stay physically and emotionally fit, and family meals help with both. Clearly, family meals are the foundation for a healthy nation.”
As we look toward fall and the holidays, what is your “new normal” for family meals? Let’s keep the spirit of being together around the table ever before us. The benefits go far beyond the food on the table.
“Americans Are Staying Strong with Family Meals During the Pandemic — And Plan to Do So After,” FMI Foundation Press Release, Sept. 1, 2020.
“So, How Does America Feel about All These Family Meals?” By David Fikes, FMI Foundation, Sept. 11, 2020.
“Family Meal Frequency, Diet, and Family Functioning: A Systematic Review With Meta-analyses,” by Shannon M. Robson, PhD, MPH, RD; Mary Beth McCullough, PhD; Samantha Rex, MS; Marcus R. Munafò, PhD; Gemma Taylor, PhD, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Jan. 23, 2020
“Back to the Table: The Art of Enjoying Food,” Meet Me at the Table Blog, by Marianne Smith Edge, Sept. 13, 2019.