I stumbled upon "Let's Fix Dinner" by Stouffer's and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. I’ve only gone through a couple of the family stories, but it was very moving and dare-say inspiring. Yes, it brought tears. But of course, this is an issue I feel passionate about. Though it’s a Stouffer’s branded website and You-Tube channel, I did not see one Stouffer’s product in the first set of videos (The Joneses), so kudos to them for some restraint and authenticity. The second set, The Bensons, did have one quick screen grab of a Stouffer's box of something. And, who knows, by the end of the series, they may be all in Stouffer's costumes, jumping up and down and giving a cheer!
The meals, for the most part, were all home-cooked from real ingredients. They were basic American fare of hamburgers, lasagna, and pasta. Maybe not the healthiest choices, but families may need to start in a comfort zone. Just getting to the table can be a challenge, and once that is accomplished, more healthy meals can be the next goal.
More important, family dinner was shown as fitting into the families' busy everyday lives, with a few bumps along the way. One very real moment included the realization of the Jones family that they didn’t have a dinner table big enough to fit them all! The next scene shows the family en masse going out to buy one. In the Benson family, mom had to be encouraged to simply "sit down," which I think is a metaphor for many a harried parent. Sometimes the kids were in total melt-down and refused to even come to the table. But overall, the families are surprised how fast and effective family dinners were in establishing connections and improving family life. The kids literally soaked it up and their faces show how happy they are to have this "simple" family ritual. It takes a commitment and an investment, but family dinner reaps rewards.
Can big food promote socially responsible messages? For this campaign, Stouffer's teamed up with CASA, the family dinner advocates at the Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse at Columbia, so that may be why there's such great messaging. While Stouffer's prepared foods are known to be high in fat and sodium, but it's also important to acknowledge that sometimes shortcuts are necessary. French Bread pizza (which brings back childhood memories for me) and a green salad is still better than take-out.
Clearly, Stouffer's would rather increase sales of their frozen dinner products than let those dollars go to fast food or restaurant outlets. Still, I would argue that this campaign is at the very least a nice gesture to throw some corporate dollars and support toward promoting the social good of family dinner. I hope the videos and commercials are compelling enough to inspire families to get around the dinner table regardless of what they decide to eat.
Let's Fix Dinner Home Page
You Tube Stouffer's channel: Let's Fix Dinner
CASA's National Family Dinner Night, 9.27.2010
Stouffer's Attempts to "Fix Dinner", BrandWeek, 2.10.10
Another Blogger's View: New Breed of Advertisers Post on Stouffer's Let Fix Dinner, 03.10