What is the Shared Meals Initiative?
The Shared Meals Initiative is a project of the Nutrition Council of Oregon intended to raise awareness of the importance of mealtimes shared by multiple people – family members, community members, neighbors, friends – in encouraging healthy food choices, promoting positive and supportive social interactions, reducing risky behavior among youth, and strengthen family and friendship bonds. The group hopes to expand to other health systems, social service organizations and private businesses with the goal of helping patients, clients, employees and consumers understand the physical, emotional and social benefits of sharing meals with others.
What is the Nutrition Council of Oregon?
The Nutrition Council of Oregon (NCO) is a respected and diverse group of nutrition professionals from Oregon’s public health, education and health care sectors concerned with public health nutrition issues that affect population groups in Oregon. Members of the Nutrition Council of Oregon represent public health, health care, academic, nutrition and food, and non-profit organizations interested in promoting the nutritional health of Oregonians.
NCO members include the Oregon Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Dairy Council, Aging and People with Disabilities, Public Health Division, Oregon Public Health Institute, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) Oregon Food Bank, and Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board.
Why are shared meals so important?
Shared meals have been scientifically proven to promote health in many ways. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “encouraging family meals in which parents and children eat together is an evidence-based way to prevent obesity.” Other research has shown that frequent family meals are associated with a number of benefits for different age groups, races, ethnicities and genders, including:
- Better eating habits.
- Reduced risk of overweight and obesity.
- Less substance abuse among adolescents.
- Less screen time.
- Family bonding.
- Positive child learning outcomes.
- Socialization skills and decreased risk of mortality.
What is the Nutrition Council of Oregon doing to encourage shared meals?
The Nutrition Council of Oregon is encouraging friends, families, neighbors, schools, senior meal organizers and civic organizations to celebrate shared and family meals during September. They can organize shared meal events, develop regular shared meal gatherings, work with members of their communities to help their friends and neighbors find ways to regularly share meals and make this activity a routine part of their lives. They also are promoting September as Shared Meals Month, as proclaimed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, with the theme, “Cook together. Eat together. Talk together. Make meal time a shared time.”
What are some tips people can use to encourage shared meals?
Bringing friends and family members together for a shared meal can be difficult as parents and children try to navigate busy work, school and activity schedules. But these barriers can be overcome with these simple steps:
- Make mealtime a priority: plan ahead when you will eat together.
- Be creative and flexible about when and where you eat together.
- Make mealtime a pleasant and stress free time – talk about fun and happy things.
- Turn off the TV, computer and cell phones.
- Keep meals simple and easy.
- Involve everyone in preparation of the meal.
- Encourage children to try foods, but don’t lecture or force your child to eat.
- Invite others to join you for a meal.