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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Food Connects Us

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Vegetables surrounding a cutting board to celebrate World Food Day

Happy World Food Day!!

In honor of World Food Day, let’s celebrate how powerfully food connects us. As it says in Nutrition for Everyone (1):

“Food connects people. In fact, the word companion comes from the Latin com, which means “together with,” and panis, which means “bread.” Our English word was derived from the old French word compaignon, which literally translates to “one who breaks bread with another.” Throughout history and in all cultures, food has served to bring people together.”

One of the best ways to celebrate and learn about the cultures of the world is to break bread together.

We can learn so much about others and their culture by learning about their foodways. When, where, what, and with whom do they eat meals? What are their staple foods? What are their food preparation methods? How are foods served? What foods are considered celebratory foods?

Consider the important role of meals in providing an opportunity for social interaction. Around the world, eating together is celebrated. For many people, eating together may be reserved for special occasions, but with a little effort, sharing meals can become more commonplace.

Over the past couple of decades, a body of research has identified numerous benefits to sharing meals. These benefits certainly apply to families with children, but sharing meals also benefits families without children and single adults. Sharing meals is recognized around the world as a priority for building healthy relationships. Let’s celebrate World Food Day by eating together!

Tip series #32 covers 5 tips for promoting shared or family meals. Consider how these tips are translatable to the promotion of many other healthy habits.

5 Tips for Promoting Family Meals

Tip #1 Focus on Benefits

The benefit of eating together families value most is the opportunity to connect with one another. Building closer families, strengthening communication, and promoting a sense of identity and belonging are strong motivators to achieving family meals. Family meals are also associated with academic success, improved social skills, reduced risk-taking behaviors, and healthier diets.

Tip #2 Overcome Barriers

In spite of their many benefits, families struggle with achieving family meals as often as they would like. The biggest barrier is a lack of time, which is often related to conflicting schedules and the fatigue caused by work and family commitments. Other barriers include a lack of meal planning and cooking skills, dealing with picky eaters, and the fear of conflict around the table.

Tip #3 Set Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic aspirations of gourmet menus served on china with perfectly behaved children work against being successful. A family meal is simply when the people who live together come together to eat and talk. They don’t have to be fancy, and they can be eaten at home or away. Perfect attendance is not required. Two family members eating at the same time and place is a family meal.

Tip #4 Focus on Consistency and Companionship

The two most important “ingredients” for family meals are consistency and companionship. Create a mealtime routine that family members can count on, even if it is not every day. The word “companion” comes from the Latin “with bread.” Companionship means being fully present with screens away and the focus on one another. Consistency and companionship are powerful.

Tip #5 Planning Ahead is Key

Planning ahead makes family meals easier, including: Determining when they can fit into a family’s schedule, selecting the location, planning the menu, getting food on hand, making advance preparations, involving everyone in shopping, cooking, and clean-up, and committing to creating a mealtime environment that promotes positive behaviors and conversation.

Food connects us - let's celebrate World Food Day - together!

Visit this page to download any of the free tip sheets:

Learn more about making shared meals an achievable goal.

Get free resources for promoting family meals:

“Food is the common denominator that brings people together.” ~ James Beard

1. Mayfield, BJ. Nutrition for Everyone. Bridgepoint Education. 2015. Page 506.

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