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Q&A: FMI’s VP of health and wellness on encouraging family mealtime

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice


Food is a necessary piece of our survival, but it can often be much more than that. It can also be a way to bring people together, which is part of what the Food Marketing Institute is looking to do during the month of September during the group’s inaugural National Family Meals Month movement. This month, FMI is working with food retailers to help encourage consumers to share one more meal at home with their families each week, a goal that, according to the organization, is beneficial to all members of the family in more ways than one.

We talked to Cathy Polley, FMI‘s vice president of health and wellness, about the effort, why it’s important for food retailers and consumers and how retailers can continue encouraging consumers to share more family meals at home beyond the month of September.

Where did the idea for National Family Meals Month come from?

Food retailers are known supporters of their communities and proponents of neighborhood values, so the idea of a national campaign that could inspire more meals at home with items from the grocery store was an organic idea that met the goals of the FMI Foundation. The nation’s grocers feed families and enrich the lives of their customers every day by selling safe, affordable, nutritious food, and arguably there’s nothing more personal than our relationships with food, so we wanted to take an opportunity to amplify the engagement opportunities among our members from the store level to social media.

It’s no secret that the family meal is taking on a new dynamic, which is ripe for opportunities for food retailers and their suppliers to cater to shifting needs of a new generation of families. Our industry will help bring families together — however that happens and however shoppers define a family.

What are the goals of National Family Meals Month?

National Family Meals Month builds awareness for food retailers as the solution for family mealtime. While the primary goal is to encourage shoppers to enjoy one more family meal at home each week using ingredients or even prepared meals from the grocery store, research shows that home-cooked meals nourish the spirit, brain and health of all family members. And regular family meals are linked to the kinds of outcomes that we all want for our children: higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and less risky behavior.

What role do food retailers play in family meals?

With a collective voice and coordinated promotion, we as the grocery industry can rally families back to the table to share one more meal together each week, reminding them that easy, healthy mealtime solutions can be found in their supermarket aisles. Grocers are in the business to help families. They’ve taken real steps in our stores, through our product offerings and by training staff to provide solutions that respond to the way people live now.

Why is family mealtime so important for American households?

Numerous studies underscore the long-term health, academic and societal benefits of consistently eating together as a family, yet, according to a 2013 Harris poll, only 30% of American families share dinner every night.

No doubt, juggling jobs, kids and the demands of a busy, modern life often come at the expense of family mealtime at home. Family meals eaten at home have been proven to benefit the health and wellness of children and adolescents, to fight obesity, substance abuse and to make families stronger — creating a positive impact on our communities and our nation as a whole.

Beyond participation in National Family Meals Month, what can food retailers do to continue to encourage consumers to eat more meals with their families?

In its inaugural year, FMI is initiating a conversation around family meals and we have aspirations to grow the program year over year by curating stories via social media. Food retailers will lead a month-long dialog on the subject of family mealtime, bolstered by the actions of their association, and we hope the cadence of more mealtimes at home in September will create healthy habits among consumers throughout the year.

Get social with us using the hashtag #FamilyMealsMonth and #RaiseYourMitt to commit to one more meal each week with items from the grocery store!


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