by EMILIE KILFOIL '17
The Family Dinner Project is a non-profit organization founded by Shelly London, who worked previously as a fellow at Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. The movement is described on its website as “a growing movement of food, fun and conversation about things that matter.” It is currently working to inform families about the benefits of eating dinner together and having meaningful conversation. The Good Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has worked with the non-profit since 2009, and it is also affiliated with Harvard University’s Project Zero.
London and The Family Dinner Project assert that “by supporting regular, substantive connection and conversation, The Family Dinner Project encourages individuals to become more aware and mindful of ethics in their personal, academic, and professional lives.”
There are many benefits to eating dinner together as a family, and they are not limited to just health and academic benefits. The Family Dinner Project suggests that it can reduce drug use, teen pregnancy, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and obesity, as well as promote self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, studies show that eating meals together increases higher GPAs and yields stronger vocabulary usage.
The Family Dinner Project, which works primarily through online resources and local, community-based programs, hopes that families will come together to share their experiences and help each other propagate the benefits of eating together. The Project encourages families to discuss with each other how to set goals to improve their dinnertime conversation in both the quality of conversation as well as the frequency.
53% of U.S. adults say that their family eats dinner together six or seven nights a week. The average amount of dinners shared by families each week is 5.1. At SUA, a poll conducted this month explores this.
As indicated on the above chart, 23.1% of students eat dinner with their families 6 or 7 days a week, while nearly half (48.4%) eat together 5, 6, or 7 days a week.
When asked about her thoughts on eating dinner with her family, Mary Berding ’17 says, “It’s important to eat dinner as a family because it keeps my life balanced. By spending an hour with my sisters and parents I remember how lucky I am to be surrounded by caring, engaging people. Besides, it’s always a nice break from doing homework!”
Natalie Mouch ’17 has similar thoughts, and values eating together “as it not only allows you to relax and take a break in your day but also to re-connect and bond with your family.”
As high school students, we have plenty of curricular and extracurricular commitments, so it can be difficult to find time to spend with our families. However, studies show that when asked about priorities, teenagers rank family dinners as very high in importance. Here are some tips on what you can do if you want to have more meaningful conversations and spend meals with your families:
Discuss with your family the importance of eating together.
Plan ahead and determine which days of the week allow you to eat dinners together
Decide on what kind of conversation or conversation topic is most suitable and will be most beneficial for your family.
If your schedule is out of sync with your family’s and you can’t find a time to eat together, decide on a common time for next week and plan events and other commitments accordingly.
If you are interested in learning more about the Family Dinner Project, visit its website: http://thefamilydinnerproject.org/