By: Haley Pierce, Manager, FMI Foundation
When I think of family meals, I think of family gatherings with people (plus some furry friends) who have come from near and far, who sometimes hold different opinions, principles and values, but love and respect each other in those differences. What comes to mind in those times are the typical occasions for family meals: holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Seder with Passover, Iftar with Ramadan, Maha Shivaratri, Easter, July 4th, Samhain, and even Halloween.
Sometimes these celebrations and commemorations reach beyond mere family bonds to engage communities, neighborhoods, friends and colleagues. This comes at a pivot point in history when many people, including those within the LGBTQ+ community, those who have different faith and culture-based practices than their families, and those with other marginalized identities, are redefining what it means to have family and even exist within a family.
In my case, my chosen family is at my table most nights. We celebrate beyond the traditionally observed holidays you see on most calendars—with festivities around birthdays, cat and dog adoption dates, milestones from partners and roommates, the new blockbuster movie, name changes, successful road trips taken, trekking up mountains and through mud, festivals you can get lost in—and commemorate and honor those lost on key dates relevant to my communities.
For us to share our successes, challenges, and trivialities over dinner or brunch creates community. In fact, this is substantiated by the National Family Meals Movement's latest research. Family meals of all types contribute to better mental health, create a sense of togetherness, and often provide greater nutritional benefits to those at the table. These benefits often go beyond the family meal and create ripple effects among those participating in them. It's with inclusion in mind that we have also expanded our suite of infographics this year to represent families of all types, including depicting a family structure similar to my own: both chosen and blood family. We hope you and your organizations will utilize our infographics this upcoming National Family Meals Month and share how you are celebrating family meals in September and beyond.