Association News Executive News Health/Wellness Northeast

Opinion: Challenge To Eat More Meals At Home In September

Pa. Profile, Alex Baloga, PFMA
Alex Baloga

Alex Baloga, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, issued the following statement calling consumers to spend more time eating at home in September, as the commonwealth celebrates Family Meals Month.

American families lead busy lives. Even after the traditional 9-5 workday, evening events seem to monopolize the week, leaving little time for family togetherness. Dinners are often rushed, unplanned, and not always healthy.

That’s why, this month, we’d like to challenge families to do something that seems very simple. Have one home-cooked meal together as a family, per week, with items purchased from your local grocery store.

Pennsylvania elected officials have endorsed the effort. Gov. Tom Wolf issued a proclamation designating September 2019 as Family Meals Month in Pennsylvania. State Rep. Greg Rothman introduced a resolution (House Resolution 455) making the same designation.

“More than 8 in 10 parents say it is important to eat at home together as a family and, those who miss dinners, in particular, say they are trying to eat with their children more often,” Rep. Rothman said. “This is our mission.”

The national Family Meals Month movement originated several years ago from our partners at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation. The goal was, and still is, to encourage families to cook and eat together at home, thus providing more opportunity for bonding.

An FMI study showed that 92 percent of U.S. consumers say they want to eat healthier meals, yet only 30 percent of American families share dinner every night. Dinnertime conversations establish closer relationships and increase parental involvement.

The benefits run even deeper. Studies show that regular family meals are linked to kids earning higher grades, improving self-esteem and resisting negative peer pressure. Each additional family meal shared per week results in adolescents who are less likely to show symptoms of violence, depression and suicide, and are less likely to use or abuse drugs or run away.

PFMA member stores have strongly supported the initiative. At Giant Food Stores, for example, nutritionists have highlighted easy meal solutions in-store and in the community, including ideas for eating healthy on a budget, while inspiring families to bring everyone together for one more family meal. Wellness Walks, conducted by Giant nutritionists, offer tips for easy-to-prepare dinners, ready-to-eat choices to help save time and fresh ideas to make mealtime fun.

“Families are always juggling busy schedules and struggling to put a nutritious meal on the table—and Giant can help,” said Matt Simon, Giant’s VP, marketing. ”We believe that bringing families together around the table strengthens the bonds that make up a healthy community.”

Wegman’s has offered strategies to organize family meals, which include filling half your plate with veggies, cook once, eat twice and theme night—which could include Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays.

“Involve the kids with choosing themes—it gives them a stake in planning, it creates variety and it makes shopping easier, said Wegmans nutritionist Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN. “Active time for dinner prep can be 30 minutes or less.”

ShopRite has offered four “chef-inspired, dietitian-approved” meal kits, according to a news release. The kits serve two and cost $11.99.

Get involved in Family Meals Month. Post a photo (selfie or “usie”) of you and your family enjoying a home-cooked meal together, include the hashtag #FamilyMealsMonthPA, and email it to us at [email protected] or tag us and post it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

We’re thankful to our government leaders, member stores and industry partners who have recognized the importance of this movement and we hope Pennsylvanians join the effort to eat together as a family this month.

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Erica Sacra

Outside of her web editing duties, Erica enjoys watching movies and spending time with friends and family. She loves trivia and Kentucky Wildcats basketball.

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