September is FMI—The Food Industry Association’s Family Meals Month and this year the effort to have families eat more meals together is kicking off in the midst of a pandemic. Retailers have tailored their programming to the new normal, which is forcing families to eat at home more often, a trend that research shows may outlast the pandemic.
Image courtesy of SpartanNash
“We have long known that family meals have a tremendously positive impact,” said David Fikes, executive director of the FMI Foundation, the organization that founded National Family Meals Month and which provides research grants for this and other family meals studies. “In fact, just as our nation was being impacted by the pandemic early this year, the most comprehensive study to date—published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)—demonstrated the undeniable value of family meals. It showed that more frequent family meals were associated with better dietary and family functioning outcomes.”
A new survey conducted by FMI from Aug. 14-17, 2020, took the pulse of 1,000 consumers. It found that more than three-quarters (77%) currently cohabitate and are therefore sharing meals with children, significant others, other adult family members, friends and roommates, and 94% are cooking the same or more than before the pandemic. The survey also found that meals keep families connected, with 71% agreeing that "I feel more connected to my family since the pandemic has started,” while 78% enjoy family meals with sentiments like “they are a high point of my day,” or “they help to make me feel calm” or “they are an important part of my household’s regular routine.”
The survey also found that nearly all (85%) of respondents plan to continue to eat as many or more meals as a family. “Whatever our new normal will be, we need to stay physically and emotionally fit, and family meals help with both,” Fikes said. “Clearly, family meals are the foundation for a healthy nation.”
Several retailers are helping promote Family Meals month with a variety of programming efforts.
Throughout September, Hy-Vee will help families have at least one meal together a week. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based retailer’s efforts include a sweepstakes where families can earn the chance to participate in a 90-second shopping spree to win free groceries and earn an additional $1,000. The shopping spree, held before the store opens to ensure proper social distancing, will be held in select markets in celebration of the Family Meals Month and the retailer’s 90th anniversary.
Hy-Vee also is offering contactless drive-thru giveaways, where in select markets 500 meal kits that serve 4-5 people will be given away to help families have a shared meal and help those burdened during the pandemic. The foodservice departments, including Wahlburgers at Hy-Vee and Market Grille locations, also will be offering free meals for kids whenever an adult meal is purchased. Hy-Vee’s social media platforms also will be showcasing daily recipes, weekly meal ideas and grab-and-go dinner options and Hy-Vee KidsFit social platforms will share videos and resources to help families make healthy choices. The Hy-Vee Facebook page will host live cooking demonstrations each Sunday followed by a question and answer session with company’s dietitians.
This year’s ShopRite’s Family Meals month theme is “Just Add Family,” acknowledging that great family moments don’t require grand meals, they just require togetherness.
“We get it. Making every meal at home can be a challenge when you’re also trying to balance a busy life,” said Natalie Menza-Crowe, director of health and wellness for ShopRite. “That’s why this year’s campaign is all about providing inspiration for quick and easy meals with recipes, advice and classes that can be accessed either online or in-store, and enjoyed by all.”
A new element to this year’s campaign is Instagram and Facebook Live videos by the retailer’s dietitians who will demonstrate how to recreate popular recipes such as Salmon Burgers, Blue Cheese Apple Walnut Grilled Pizza, and Jamaican Jerk Chicken, at home. Shoppers also will be able to interact with the dietitians via ShopRite’s “RD Virtual Chat” button on the shoprite.com website.
“Providing our shoppers with healthy, affordable and time-saving resources has always been a priority at ShopRite,” said Menza-Crowe. “We’re especially proud to kick off this year’s Family Meals Month with a fresh, new campaign that combines the best of our dietitians’ expertise, both in real-time and online, to share the message that the most important ingredient to any meal is togetherness.”
SpartanNash and its retail banners—Family Fare, Martin’s Super Markets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery and Dan’s Supermarket—will be offering fun family meal ideas, nutrition tips, cooking demonstrations featuring Our Family products, and activities to bring the family together around the table using the hashtag #FamilyMealsMonth.
“Cooking family meals at home decreases excess calorie consumption, increases fruit and vegetable consumption and improves overall dietary habits,” said Deanna Scheid, SpartanNash health and wellness specialist and registered dietitian. “Having a well-balanced plate containing grains, lean-proteins and fruits and vegetables has a direct impact on weight, chronic disease and overall immune health, our body’s defense system. We know there can be numerous obstacles to planning, cooking and eating meals together as a family, and SpartanNash and our more than 155 corporate-owned stores are here to make it easier to do so throughout Family Meals Month and beyond.”