Eat. Talk. Connect! Eating Family Meals Together

This article was written by Kathy Sandberg, Rice County Chemical Health Coalition, on behalf of the Northfield Mayor’s Task on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use. 

Around the holidays, we often use the term "old-fashioned” in a nostalgic way.   Old-fashioned generates images of warm memories and good feelings.  But old-fashioned can be pretty irritating, too.  Think about old-fashioned cars that don't have anti-lock brakes or power steering.  Or consider old-fashioned phones that were hard wired to your house.  How about old-fashioned cooking that didn't include frozen foods or microwavable meals?  Some things from the old days we don't miss and wouldn't want back.

Some old-fashioned things, however, might be worth bringing back.  Take family meals for example.  Many families these days get overwhelmed with work responsibilities, kids' sports and other after school activities as well as church, civic groups and volunteer obligations.  Instead of the old-fashioned, sit down together, home-made food and conversation, supper is many separate grabs for food and a dash off to the next event.   Certainly life styles today often work better with more efficient food options, but what do we miss from the sit down meal?  One significant thing that we miss is the conversation.  For many of us, without a family meal we don’t connect with family members about their day to day lives.  Communication is through phone calls, emails or texts with little time for conversation.  No wonder we find it so challenging to know what is happening with our kids; and they don’t really understand our lives either.

Beginning in January, through partnerships among Rice County Growing Up Healthy, Health Finders Clinic and the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition, we will begin promoting families eating 5 or more meals together each week…..without the TV.  The program, called Eat. Talk. Connect! provides encouragement, support and incentives for families to use meal times to eat together and connect with one another through conversation. 

Families will receive information through their children at local elementary and middle schools.  They will be invited to register by completing the form and returning it to the child’s school.  Once they have registered, families will receive an Eat. Talk. Connect! kit.  Beginning February 1st and continuing through April, families will keep track of the meals they eat together using a calendar provided by the project.  They will also receive menu tips, conversation starters, and resources for parents and families to use.  Each week, families will be entered into a prize drawing.  Families that complete the program will also be eligible for a grand prize.

Even more important, families have the chance to build stronger bonds with each other.  Those bonds provide a sense of connection to each other, to school and to the community.  Research shows that kids who eat 5 or more meals with their families each week:

·         Are less likely to smoke, use alcohol or other drugs

·         Have greater success in school

·         Eat more healthfully and are less likely to develop eating disorders

·         Experience less stress and are less likely to be depressed

For more information or to register, check with your child’s school, contact the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition by calling 507-210-5151 or email You can also contact Zach Pruitt, Healthy Community Initiative at 507-664-3524 or email