Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Parents as Real Food Advocates? More Thoughts on Family Dinner and the Food System

One of the hot topics among slow food/real food/sustainable food (take your pick of labels) advocates is how to expand their message broadly and fight the "elitist" label that only the super-rich could care about sustainable food practices. As I wrote in a post last week, I think taking the message to families is one way to do it. With eatdinner.org, I am most interested in helping support families so they will start eating meals together, without too many rules or caveats. But I am often asked, "What's more important: the food or the family?" The truth is, they are wed pretty tightly. Family dinner is often the first step in a progression: from family dinner comes an interest in healthy eating and home cooking, from this comes an appreciation of better nutrition and real food, which ties into reductions in obesity. The next steps could easily be better understanding and support of a sustainable and safe food system. 

More people eating "family dinner" means:
more people that come to the table,
more people that care about food,
more people that know about food,
more people that eat better,*
more parents teaching kids about healthy choices,
more people that vote with their wallet and their forks to affect change in the food system.
So, family dinner is both a first step and a platform. The slow food movement will mean something to parents who are already invested in serving their families nutritious foods at shared meals. Reaching out to parents and families will not only expand the slow food audience, but it will combat charges of elitism. 

Researching these issues, I stumbled across a couple of great slow food projects: The Perennial Plate, by Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, a online video documentary of weekly sustainable food adventures in Minnesota that is now launching a nationwide a road trip, and 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake who challenged herself to feed her family "real food" for over 100 days.  While the documentary filmmakers are indeed inspiring, very few of us in the trenches with kids could or would launch such a drastic life change. But Leake's model is more do-able for a family, and in some ways, more instructive. How can you make changes today to  embrace a commitment to real food, and in the end, make more healthy choices for your family?  I was particularly inspired by her stint of serving real food on a budget of only $125 a week for a family of four. I am also excited by Food Day, which seems to be reaching out to a broad audience, as an Earth Day for food. I hope these efforts will bring families into the "slow food" fold, so that they can eat better for themselves and they can advocate for a better food system for all.

More resources for Slow Food and a Sustainable Food System
SlowFood USA, an organization to promote slow food
Food Day.org, an organization to promote "real food" advocacy
100 Days of Real Food on Civil Eats, May 5, 2011
Fair Food, a new book by Oran B. Hesterman on positive ways to change to food system. 

*Recent coverage of new meta-analysis on the health benefits of family dinner
CNN Health
Pediatrics Article May 2, 2011


  1. Great post - I think that your crucial point is that family meals bring people together over food - ideally REAL Food. It's the perfect venue to talk about what's on the table and be proud of what we are serving our kids.

  2. Thanks Michelle! I love your cookbook since it has real food in recipes so simple you can easily cook with your kids. Love that!


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