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Real Family Dinner Projects: Families in Quarantine

Posted on: May 4th, 2020 by Bri DeRosa

This month, we’re doing something a little different with our Real Family Dinner Projects feature. Rather than featuring one family, we’re sharing two family stories in one post to show some of the different ways in which families across the country are creatively connecting to share meals even during social distancing due to COVID-19. We’re grateful to the Amato and Gibbons families for sharing their stories with us to help inspire others!

The Families:

The Amatos, from Maine; and the Gibbons family, from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The Goals:

Both families have been driven to find new ways to share meals with each other despite being separated by social distancing restrictions. Like many families right now, they’re missing those who live in different households and wishing that they had the opportunity to gather for a family dinner.

For Carol Gibbons, the inability to visit and eat together was magnified by the Easter holiday. “My daughter & her husband are in NH and we always are together for holidays,” Carol shares. “So when I saw (The Family Dinner Project’s Virtual Dinner Party Guide) and sent her the link we were both excited to do this. I really had been sad about the holiday — I haven’t seen them since February — but this really made it fun.”

Michelle Amato says her family was inspired by her grandson’s first birthday in early April. “I wanted to do something to make it feel like the special day that it was,” she says. So she and her son cooked and delivered meals to all the households in the area who would have gathered for a birthday celebration, and everyone ate together via Zoom — with other family members from different states joining in. After that, they decided to make their distance dinners a weekly tradition, and Sunday dinner deliveries from Michelle were born!

The Challenges:

During quarantine, the challenges to having family dinners with those outside of your own household are obvious! But gathering for online dinners or sharing meals in other ways can also be complicated. Michelle Amato and her family have tried to coordinate online meals, but “One of us is a nurse and two of us work in a pharmacy so depending on different schedules often people are working.” Those on the front lines of the pandemic may need family meals and a sense of security more than ever, but they aren’t always available to hop online and join a virtual dinner party.

The Strategies:

Carol Gibbons and her daughter decided to hold their annual Easter dinner as planned — but they used our Virtual Dinner Party Guide to make it an online event. To really create a shared meal that would feel as familiar as their usual gatherings, Carol and her husband ordered ham dinners from an online company and had them sent to both households so everyone could share the same menu. Then they agreed on a gathering time of 2 p.m., set up their phones on easels at their tables, and connected via Facetime.

They began by showing their table setups and meals to each other, and after that, “we talked for almost 2 hours,” Carol says. “We talked about the food and how good it was, how things were going for everyone dealing with being at home. We toasted together, too.” And while they didn’t play any virtual games, Carol’s daughter’s cats did! Carol says “We sent them a bubble gun and we watched as the cats explored the bubbles.”

As for Michelle Amato and her family, they’ve decided to keep their connection going through a weekly Sunday dinner. Michelle makes a big meal and drops off portions for every household to each member of the family. “We’re lucky they’re close by!” she says. Due to the challenges presented by work schedules, “sometimes we zoom and sometimes we don’t…but we all look forward to our Sunday dinners.”

The Food:

Carol’s ordering of a ready-made ham dinner for the different households was a genius idea that makes shared meals easy! Michelle’s generous offerings of homemade meals like lasagna, meatballs and shredded beef quesadillas warms our hearts and is a lovely gesture if you’re close enough to safely drop off food. But of course, what’s on the plates isn’t the most important part of any family dinner; it’s the closeness that’s fostered by sharing the meal with people you love.

The Best Part:

Michelle Amato and her family have many members who are essential to the fight against COVID-19, but finding a way to stay connected has helped them cope. “Often people are working on Sunday, but we all still share a meal…we’re making the effort to stay connected and feel good about our time together as a family.”

Carol Gibbons says finding our Virtual Dinner Party Guide online was a game-changer for her family during an otherwise stressful time. “I am just so grateful. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of it before, but it made the holiday fun.”

Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us, or would you like to tell us how your family is sharing meals during COVID-19? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Us.