Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Families find shared meals important
The new year is beginning with significant societal challenges (from the national debt crisis to the stability of the middle-class) along with concerns that continue to burden American families (from busy schedules to eating healthier). On Feb. 12, President Obama will provide his State of the Union Address. But what exactly is the State of the American Family?
Using mealtime as the barometer, a new study released Tuesday shows that families are, in fact, stronger than ever -- making time to eat together, talking to one another each day and truly enjoying spending quality time together. Welch's Kitchen Table Report found that 71 percent of respondents say their families eat dinner together as often as, or more than, their families did when they were children. Nearly 90 percent of parents say they talk to their children every day about what they think and how they feel. Moreover, family mealtime is an extremely important part of family life with 84 percent of respondents saying that one of their favorite parts of the day is when their family eats together.
These meals are taking place at the kitchen table, with 68 percent of respondents reporting they eat most meals or snacks together as a family at the table.
"It might feel like the traditional ideal of a family gathered for dinner is only a memory of a bygone era and that today's families aren't connected to each other as they are busy running around, texting and watching TV," comments registered dietitian and Welch's Health and Nutrition Advisory Panel member Sarah-Jane Bedwell. "The truth is parents are making quality time a priority and are using mealtime to share a moment with their children. In fact, research has shown an association between regular family meals and improved family nutrition and overall well-being. In my experience, families who eat together are happier, healthier and stronger."
Contrary to conventional wisdom, most families currently eat dinner together most nights of the week. For example, 75 percent say that, in an average week, they eat together four or more nights. Thirty-four percent report they eat together seven nights a week, on average. Not only are families spending time together but they are making it a top priority. In fact, nearly 60 percent of respondents indicate they would rather spend time with their family or a spouse than receive a $5,000 pay raise, lose 10 pounds, go on a Caribbean cruise or get more sleep.
Family mealtime is serving as the hub of family life, with the kitchen table acting as mission control.
More than 70 percent of American families in the study say they use the kitchen table as a place for catching up as a family, playing games, doing homework, or arts and crafts. Most respondents (nearly 80 percent) say they use their kitchen table for at least eight separate activities together as a family, with 94 percent enjoying a family dinner at the table.
Despite all this good news, the modern American family still faces challenges that impact family mealtime, such as a lack of time and financial concerns. Four out of 10 survey respondents cite the lack of time to cook meals, especially healthy meals, as a top barrier to family mealtimes. The same number cites busy schedules as another reason it is difficult to eat meals together as a family.
To learn more, visit Welchs.com/KitchenTableReport.
FAMILY, page 2