Over the past few months, The Family Dinner Project has held community dinners at the Ford School in Lynn, Massachusetts. The events are designed to bring together families from the school community who all want to make their dinners easier, more fun and more meaningful. At the community dinners, the families exchange cooking and conversation ideas in a fun, collaborative atmosphere.
Jennifer de los Santos, a local mother and community member, has attended several of The Family Dinner Project’s events with her family. We chatted about Jennifer’s experience at the community dinners and learned more about what dinner is like in the Santos home.
Does your whole family come to The Family Dinner Project’s events?
We do! I have five daughters and a son, and we all walk over. Although my husband has to work late sometimes, he also stops by.
What’s been your favorite community dinner?
Last time, we made pizza with vegetables, like peppers and broccoli. It was delicious.
We’ve loved the meals so far. Everyone is so nice, and it gives us a chance to be together as a family.
Have the community dinners been helpful for planning meals at home?
Oh, yes. The organizers gave out newspaper and magazine clips with lots of healthy tips on them.
What are dinners like at your house?
Everybody eats together, which is nice. The kids are pretty hungry after school, so we have dinner as soon as we can. The first thing I usually hear when they come home is, “Mommy, what did you cook today?”
Does your family have any special meals?
Taco Friday! My kids love Taco Friday. When I cook that, they just go insane.
They are obsessed with sour cream, too, so we have to have that on the table. Since it’s not very healthy, I try to sneak some vegetables in their meals.
What do you talk about during dinner?
Mostly, we talk about the kids did during their day. They always ask me how my day was, and I say, “Busy!”
What were your meals like growing up? Did you eat with your family?
I lived in the Dominican as a child, and I ate meals with my mother and stepfather. My mom usually cooked dinner. However, since she worked four hours away, sometimes I cooked, instead.
Do you have any favorite dishes from your childhood?
Yes! Rice and beans. My mother taught me how to make that, and I still make it today. She made it tastier, but I make it healthier!
Do your kids help in the kitchen?
Not on weeknights — they mostly just come when I call them. But on weekends, we make meals together. For instance, the other day, we made turkey meatballs, which are healthier than beef. The kids had a lot of fun forming the meatballs!
Why is family dinner important to you?
I want my kids to spend quality time with their family. We hardly get to see each other, because from 7:45 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon, they are out of the house. Then, when they come home, it’s very rushed, with homework and baths. Dinner is the only time we have to talk and have fun!