Let’s Celebrate - Food Connects Us
Happy World Food Day!!
World Food Day is celebrated each year in October, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The theme for 2021 is “Our Actions are our Future” (1)
“The food you choose and the way you consume it affect our health and that of our planet. It has an impact on the way agri-food systems work. So you need to be part of the change.”
In honor of World Food Day, let's consider how our food choices and how we consume food are integral to our culture and our identity. When we learn about what and how people eat, we get to know them at a deeper level. For World Food Day let's celebrate how food connects us.
A year ago I posted this blog for World Food Day and it became one of the year's most popular posts. Let's revisit that theme and celebrate how powerfully food connects us. As it says in Nutrition for Everyone (2):
“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!
I created a tip sheet you can download that covers 5 tips for promoting shared or family meals. Consider how these tips are translatable to the promotion of many other healthy habits.
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.
For more ideas on making shared meals a reality, read: What’s the big deal with family meals?
“Food is the common denominator that brings people together.” ~ James Beard
2. Mayfield, BJ. Nutrition for Everyone. Bridgepoint Education. 2015. Page 506.
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