FCS Dine In Day – December 3!

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One thing I’ve heard asked several times during this pandemic… “what’s your silver lining?”  Many folks have given this some thought and have had some positive responses about things they’ve experienced during this “different” time. I know some have pledged to keep these in the future.

I think something many have done this year (and feel it’s a silver lining) is eating more meals at home with the family. This could be more home-cooked meals or perhaps takeout meals eaten at home. So, what I’m going to suggest may not be something unusual for your family these days. Thursday, December 3, 2020, is Dine In Day, a day to make a special effort to eat at home with your family.

FCS Dine In Day Logo
December 3, 2020, marks the seventh annual Family and Consumer Sciences “Dine-in for Healthy Families Day.”  First, you may ask, what is Family and Consumer Sciences, and why are they promoting family meals? Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) is the new home economics, which is more than traditional cooking and sewing. FCS helps people develop skills to lead better lives, build strong families, live well, live healthily, and make meaningful contributions to communities.

The field of Family and Consumer Sciences has been part of the Extension system for more than 105 years. Cooperative Extension here in North Carolina is the largest outreach program of our two land-grant universities, NC State University and N.C. A&T State University, serving all 100 counties and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Families are the basis for what we do in Cooperative Extension and we want you to help us celebrate FCS by Dining In.

Why eat with your family? Much research has been done on this topic. Some of these “silver linings” are obvious with benefits such as healthier meals, teaching children to cook, saving money on foods cooked at home, less obesity, and teaching manners to children. Many of these topics are core principles of FCS.

There are some other wonderful outcomes of families eating together that have nothing to do with the food. Some studies have shown that family meals help improve grades and lower the chances that children will engage in risky behaviors. It has also been proven that children who have family meals are more likely to feel better about themselves and experience less depression.

Even with these wonderful outcomes, prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that only 30% of families shared dinner every night. One of the reasons given to the researchers for the absence of family meals was too many distractions, including television and social media.

So what’s happening now? COVID has added another whole layer of challenges to family meals. Both children and adults are on their computers all day long while doing homeschooling and working from home options. Is screen time the same distraction as it was before? Maybe it’s the perfect time for some conversation around the dinner table.

According to Ingrid Adams, an Ohio State University Extension Specialist in human behavior, “screen-free meals provide an opportunity for important social interactions between parents and children.” Adams recommends families set healthy limits for screen time, especially when it comes to mealtimes.

So how can you lessen the screen time at mealtimes with your kids? Adams suggests:

  • Eat your meals at the table.
  • Turn off the television during mealtime.
  • Create boundaries. Make firm rules about not using or viewing screens during meals. Set limits on screen time and where screen time can occur.
  • Remove distractions. Don’t bring phones, tablets, or other devices to the dinner table. Consider removing any screens from the eating area.
  • Take turns sharing ideas. Have everyone take a turn sharing what he or she did during the day. This might help spark conversation and lessen the desire for distractions such as TV or phones.

You may ask why December 3? The date was selected to honor and celebrate the birthday of Ellen Swallow Richards, who was the first female graduate of MIT and the founder of Home Economics.

If you already have plans for December 3, that’s OK, any day is a good day to sit down, eat a meal, and spend some screen-free time with your family.

Source:  American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences FCS Day, Food Marketing Institute Foundation (FMI Family Meals Movement), and Chow Line, Ohio State University Extension.

This column was written by Cheryle Syracuse and featured in the FCS Column of the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center at (910) 253-2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu.