By David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI Foundation
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and therefore the perfect time to announce FMI’s Family Meals Movement new partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. The new collaboration with NAMI builds on FMI’s partnerships with American Heart Association and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, broadening the Family Meal Movement to include nutritional, physical and mental health organizations.
Historically, the Family Meals Movement has focused on the positive benefits family meals have regarding physical health and nutrition. These benefits have been substantiated by an FMI Foundation funded meta-analysis of existing scientific studies confirming that more frequent family meals are associated with better dietary outcomes and increased fruit and vegetable consumption.
However, the emotional benefits of family meals are also well-documented. Research consistently reveals a positive relationship between family meal frequency and measures of family functioning. Studies show that family meals improve family connectedness, expressiveness and problem solving. With stronger family cohesion, communication and relationships, individual family members are better prepared for uncertainty, better able to manage difficult life moments, and more equipped to celebrate simple joys together. Frequent family meals help to increase one’s self-esteem, sense of well-being and positive social behaviors. The family meals movement urges participants to “Stay Strong with Family Meals,” and the new partnership with NAMI broadens that message to better include the mental and emotional health aspects of staying strong.
The kickoff of the FMI and NAMI partnership coincides with 2022’s Mental Health Awareness Month, which coincidently boasts the theme, “Together for Mental Health.” Beginning this month and beyond, the partners will use shared resources to amplify the importance of coming together to champion mental health. These resources will include infographics, webinars and educational materials promoting that family meals, no matter how one defines family, are one avenue to bolster individuals’ mental health. NAMI will also continue to advocate for access to care through NAMI’s blog, personal stories, videos, digital toolkits, social media engagements and national events.
The FMI Foundation takes great pride in working with partners such as NAMI to help shine a spotlight on the importance of mental health. Promoting family meals, however family is defined, is a meaningful way to positively impact the physical health and emotional well-being of Americans.