Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Food and Family sponsored by Christopher Family Foundation Food and Family Program at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. I have been a huge follower of Dr. Barbara Fiese‘s work on family routines and rituals and appreciated getting to see the entire portfolio of research that occurs in their center.
The Food and Family Conference was interdisciplinary in nature including experts in food marketing to children, nutritional benefits of breastfeeding, picky eating, and food insecurity. Two highlights included seeing that children’s food refusal behavior varies according to setting (here’s looking at you, preschooler who happily ate broccoli and grapes at school, but later told her mother that she didn’t like them!) and hearing from Jeremy Everett of the Texas Hunger Initiative who shared moving stories of families who did not have enough money to feed their families and the creative ways that the initiative developed to help provide food to families.
This conference reminded me why I am so passionate about my work on families and health habits. To paraphrase Pampered Chef founder Doris Kelley Christopher, family meals are about so much more than nutrition, but they provide the bond that holds families together. Instead of just telling people that they need to eat meals together, let’s help them overcome the barriers to getting the meals on the table.