Holli Seabury says it takes just three family meals a week to help strengthen and connect a family. That can be breakfast, lunch or dinner, she says.
But the CEO of McMillen Center for Health Education, who is also a mother of seven, knows that between busy schedules, work and other activities, sitting down for a meal can be a challenge. That’s why the center last year launched the Family Table initiative, which works to educate families about the benefits of family meals and increase the number of meals families eat together.
McMillen surveyed about 300 people about family dinners. Many of them said they believe family meals are important and they want to do them more often, but they cited schedules and not being prepared as roadblocks to making it happen, Seabury says.
Seabury calls herself the “queen of speedy dinners and the crockpot,” but she says it’s “not about the food … it’s really about that time to connect with kids.”
She says research shows that the benefits of eating together kick in at three meals a week.
“For me, (three meals) is doable,” she says.
The benefits include not only communicating with your children, but research shows that eating together creates stronger families which can help children resist drugs, alcohol, get better grades and become less likely to attempt suicide.
The Family Table offers families free resources, such as easy recipes and conversation starters, to help get them to the dinner table. Families can access a year’s worth of tips and other resources at www.familytableonline.org.
One of the tips Seabury recommends for families is starting the habit of eating together when children are little. She also suggests putting family dinners on the calendar and making the commitment to eat together.
Meals don’t have to be dinner, Seabury says, and suggests Saturday morning breakfast or lunches one day a week.
People can sign up for a tip of the week by email and there also is a newsletter. McMillen is reaching about 2,500 people through newsletters, Seabury says. McMillen has teamed up with 37 other organizations to help reach more people, she says.
This year McMillen plans to offer more public events, recipe cards and staff training for those employees who work with children.