By Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, Food Marketing Institute
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When asked how he created such magnificent sculptures, Michelangelo responded, “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free.” True to his words, Michelangelo’s series of unfinished works are affectionately known as the Captives because they do appear as bodies trapped in stone, straining to be liberated from their rock enclosure. In a tangible journey through the stages of artistic development, the roughhewn Captives collection lines both sides of the long hallway leading to his polished masterpiece, The David. 

This imaginative staging elicits a number of feelings -- the lost potential for the unfinished Captives, but also curiosity about what earlier stages of the David must have looked like. Hold on to that thought because I will return to it. 

September is National Family Meals Month™ – the time when supermarkets across the nation unite to urge their shoppers to commit to having more family meal together each week than they have currently. According to our 2019 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report:

  • 97% of families with kids consider eating meals at home with family to be important.
  • 84% report wanting to eat more or prepare more meals at home together.
  • Relatedly, 90% of consumers consider meals eaten at home to be healthier. 

Those numbers are startling. In addition to their affirmed value in terms of physical health, I suspect that the near universal aspiration to have more family meals together stems from the deep recognition of their social, emotional and mental value.

If you're like me, when I try to remember family meals, they all start to run together. Very few of them truly stand out on their own as being formative, but I know the true value of the family meal is not recognized in its singularity, but in its cumulative effect. I believe each family meal is like a single chisel strike from Michelangelo. Every family meal shapes us in imperceptible ways and bit by bit, each gathering around the family dinner table knocks off some of our rough edges and lets our better angels emerge. Although we don't recognize it as such at the time, each meal is a step toward liberating the work of art wrestling within us, seeking to be liberated. 

I trust your stores are participating in National Family Meals Month, using innovative means to encourage and assist your shoppers to do what they truly aspire to do – have more meals together and realize the health and social benefits they contain. The FMI Foundation has resources available at to assist and guide you in this endeavor.

Beyond helping your customers with their family meals aspirations, I also hope you personally are making a family meal pledge in September. In whatever form or configuration your definition of family currently takes, I urge you to commit to having more mealtime with those who understand you are a work-in-progress but have a vision of the grounded masterpiece you are capable of becoming. 

Join the family meals movement and enjoy the artistry of becoming a better you.