By Ashley Eisenbeiser, MS, CFS, Senior Director, Food and Product Safety Programs, FMI

Family Meals Best PracticesWhat was your favorite meal growing up? For me, it was my grandmother’s spaghetti. For the past 20 years or so, I begged her for the recipe. She would always respond with, “It’s easy! The recipe is in my head.” Over the years, I received many recipes from my grandmother, but I was never successful at getting her spaghetti recipe.

A few months after Grandmother passed away last year, I was going through some of her things, and I came across a recipe for baked spaghetti. At last, I found the recipe! Quickly, I examined it to see what made her spaghetti so great—what was the secret ingredient? The “secret” ingredient was not a unique spice blend or specialty herbs; rather, the “secret” was a packet of PRE-MADE, SPAGHETTI SEASONING MIX!

I wonder if the reason that my grandmother never gave me the recipe is because she felt like it wasn’t anything special. While I will never know the true reason, I do know that I still enjoy Grandmother’s spaghetti. Whether a meal is made from scratch, a meal kit or pantry staples, it’s not the recipe that matters. It’s the family meal and memories that matter. Research supports the benefits of family meals. They:
  • Make families stronger;
  • Fuel better nutrition
  • Help fend off risky behaviors
  • Provide a built-in time to connect with your loved ones;
  • Feed the emotional well-being of family members, especially children and adolescents; and,
  • In this time of uncertainty, provide the joy and stability families need to remain grounded and stay strong.

According to the Staying Strong with Family Meals" Barometer research, Americans are cooking more with their families and having more family meals.

  • 87% say they are cooking with their families the same amount or more than before the pandemic.
  • 86% report they are having the same amount or more in-person family meals.
  • 75% say they are having the same amount or more virtual family meals.

FMI research insights into consumer food safety behavior shows many consumers report following safe handling practices when they are preparing food in the home. According to recent data from CDC on foodborne illness trends, the incidence of foodborne illness decreased by 26% in 2020. While it is difficult to determine exactly what caused the decrease, behavioral changes made because of the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role. Regardless, it will always be important for food safety to have a seat at the family dinner table.

One way to help improve food safety in the home is to start with a Safe Recipe that focuses on the main areas of food safety risk in homes: temperature, handwashing, cross-contamination and produce handling. Research shows that recipes with food safety instructions helps improve consumer food safety behaviors.

With a greater emphasis on family meals at home, there has never been a better time to focus on improving food safety behaviors in the home. So as National Family Meals Month™ comes to an end, I encourage you to continue the Family Meals momentum and make food safety an integral part of your meal preparation process as you make family meals and memories in the months to come.

Need ideas for creating and serving safe and healthy meals at home?  
Check out The Safe Recipe Cookbook and The Healthy Lunch cookbook for safe, simple, healthy and fun recipes for your next family meal.