Pandemic Highlights Value of Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month, and FMI is highlighting proven scientific benefits of sharing meals.

“We have long known that family meals have a tremendously positive impact,” said David Fikes, executive director of the FMI Foundation, the organization that founded National Family Meals Month and which provides research grants for this and other family meals studies.  “In fact, just as our nation was being impacted by the pandemic early this year, the most comprehensive study to date… demonstrated the undeniable value of family meals. It showed that more frequent family meals were associated with better dietary and family functioning outcomes.”

The study, published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, also demonstrated how the definition of “family” is constantly evolving.  Currently, 77% of those surveyed co-habitate, which means they are sharing meals with significant others, children, other adult family members, friends, and roommates.

Lockdowns pushed Americans to cook more and come together for more family meals. Ninety-four percent say they are cooking the same amount or more than before the pandemic, while three-quarters report having the same amount or more family meals—both in person and virtually.

Seventy-one percent of people who have been eating more in-person meals (and 70% having more virtual meals) agree that “I feel more connected to my family since the pandemic has started.”

The majority of Americans also have positive sentiments about family meals including: “they are the high point of my day,” “they help me feel calm,” and “they are an important part of my household’s regular routine.”

More than one-third also recognize that they eat better and 40% say that the food they eat is more balanced or healthier than the food they eat when alone.

The Food Institute Podcast recently spoke to Robyn Carter, founder and CEO of Jump Rope Innovation (JRI), about new family dynamics and trends that became evident during the beginning of the pandemic that would likely continue in the coming months. While the need for convenient food products is attractive to busy families during the day, Carter mentioned JRI’s research found all family members were enjoying eating dinner together during lockdown, a dynamic that was fading from an every-day activity before COVID-19.

“That was really interesting learning for us in talking to moms and teens…we heard the same sentiment echoed: Everyone really enjoys sitting down at the table together to have a family meal,” she said regarding the unusual trend.

Meanwhile, retailers are kicking off National Family Meals Month with a variety of efforts, reported Winsight Grocery Business (Sept. 2).

For example, Hy-Vee is helping families have at least one meal together a week. The retailer is holding a sweepstakes where families can earn a chance to participate in a 90-second shopping spree to win free groceries and earn an additional $1,000.

The shopping spree, scheduled before the store opens to ensure proper social distancing, will be held in select markets.

Additionally, Hy-Vee is offering contactless drive-thru giveaways, where in select markets 500 meal kits that serve 4 or 5 people will be given away for families in order to have a shared meal and help those burdened during the pandemic.

At ShopRite, this year’s Family Meals month theme is “Just Add Family.”

On the company’s social media platforms, Instagram and Facebook Live videos by the retailer’s dietitians will demonstrate how to recreate popular recipes, such as Salmon Burgers, Blue Cheese Apple Walnut Grilled Pizza, and Jamaican Jerk Chicken, at home. Shoppers can also interact with the dietitians via ShopRite’s “RD Virtual Chat” button on

Meanwhile, SpartanNash and its retail banners—Family Fare, Martin’s Super Markets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, and Dan’s Supermarket—will offer creative family meal ideas, nutrition tips, cooking demonstrations featuring Our Family products, and activities to bring the family together around the table using the hashtag #FamilyMealsMonth.