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Family meal an important part of schooling

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As families send their children back to school, some parents are forgetting the most important school supply: the family meal. 

A recent consumer survey of American grocery shoppers, conducted by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Rodale Inc., underscores the infrequency of family meals in the United States and the critical need for more. The findings revealed that only 57 percent of parents eat dinner with their children every night.

"We already know the many benefits of family meals," said Sue Borra, RD, executive director of the FMI Foundation. "Just as notebooks and art supplies prepare our children for school, so does the family meal. Academic research shows that kids and teens who eat meals with their family four or more times a week earn better test scores and perform better in school."

However, 71 percent of parents in the survey say in their "ideal" world they would want to eat with their children every night. Borra added, "With such busy lives, it's easy to understand how American households struggle to make family meals a reality." 

The good news is that the survey also identified solutions. For parents who did not eat dinner with their children nightly, the top-two recommendations were not surprising: 

1) Serve more meals their kids enjoy (47 percent);

2) Ensure that everyone is home at dinner time (42 percent). 

Parents also are looking to their grocery stores to provide solutions. The top three requests were: 

1) Provide more kid-friendly recipes in store;

2) Display foods together than can be combined for an easy meal;

3) Provide more ready-to-eat foods that kids like.

Food retailers are responding – not only with individual offerings at a local level, but as an industry, too. To help American families achieve the goal of one more meal at home each week, the food retailer industry has developed a website, www.NationalFamilyMealsMonth.org. It is filled with tools, tips, and meal-planning ideas to make it easier for families to have one more meal together per week – not just during National Family Meals Month, but all year long. 

The website also includes links to numerous partners – primarily food retailers and manufacturers – also committed to helping consumers achieve their increased family meals goal. In short, families can find support from their favorite local supermarket and food brands.

The FMI Foundation also is encouraging Americans to join the National Family Meals Month movement by pledging to one more breakfast, lunch or dinner at home per week. Shoppers can post pledge photos, mealtime pictures, favorite recipes and shopping tips or even post a selfie wearing a favorite oven mitt with the hashtag #FamilyMealsMonth.

A copy of the study is available here http://www.fmi.org/industry-topics/health-wellness or by contactinghgarlich@fmi.org

Established in 1996, the FMI Foundation seeks to ensure continued quality and efficiency in the food retailing system and is operated for charitable, educational and scientific purposes. To help support the role of food retailing, the FMI Foundation focuses on research and education in the areas of food safety, nutrition and health.

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