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Bring On The Table to Your Family Dinners

Food, Fun and Conversation for Families

Welcome! Thank you for committing to bringing On the Table to your family dinner in support of elevating civic conversation, fostering new relationships and inspiring action.

This guide was created by The Family Dinner Project, with generous support from The Chicago Community Trust, to assist families in having conversations as part of On the Table. Throughout the guide, you’ll find suggestions and resources to help you with the three essential elements of a meaningful meal: Food, fun and conversation about things that matter.

These ideas can be used not only to support you in your On the Table efforts, but also to help you create a lasting ritual of shared family meals that are good for the body, mind and spirit.

Happy Food, Fun and Conversation!

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Food is the thing that brings everyone to the table! It doesn’t have to be fancy — the best family meals are the ones that help everyone feel welcome and connected to one another, regardless of what’s on the menu.

For your On the Table dinner together, try one of our suggested #DinnerTonight recipes below. Both are quick, easy and budget-friendly, leaving you more time to focus on enjoying one another’s company.

Tamale Pot Pie

Chef Nate’s Sausage Fusilli

Round out your meal with our Green Salad with Infinitely Variable Vinaigrette and a healthy dessert: Cinnamon-Yogurt Dip with Fresh Fruit or Pocket Fruit Pies are easy enough for even the youngest dinner guests to help make for themselves.


Food may bring everyone to the table, but it’s the fun that makes them want to come back! Enjoying one another’s company, laughing together and providing opportunities for everyone at the table to engage in the meal are important to making family dinner a safe and welcoming place for all.

These dinner game suggestions can be used with a variety of ages to help promote critical thinking skills and imagination (not to mention fun!). Research has also shown that using activities like these at the dinner table can build resiliency, literacy skills and self-esteem.

Guess That Emotion

Which One…?


Salad Bowl Game 


Having a meaningful conversation at the dinner table is what On the Table is all about. Not only does the simple act of sharing ideas and listening to one another build social skills and family connectedness, but these specific conversation starters can help to promote the goals of On the Table: Elevating civility, fostering relationships and inspiring action. Through your family dinner conversations, you can help to build stronger, safer and more dynamic communities, one meal at a time.

Download these conversation starters for your dinner table

Family Dinner Conversation Starters»

Additional Resources

Set your table for fun and conversation with these printable table tents and placemats designed especially for On the Table!

Table Tents

Family Interview Placemats

Enjoy and Share

Enjoy your On the Table family dinner, and be sure to share so you can inspire others! If you post photos or stories about your meal on social media, use the hashtag #OnTheTable2017 so your efforts can be counted as part of this year’s movement.

Social Media Sharing Quick Tips:

  • Photos are great!
  • Make sure everyone in your photos is aware you’re posting publicly, and agrees to having their picture shared
  • Keep your sharing fun and positive, so others will be inspired by your stories!

Stay Connected:

The Family Dinner Project
Facebook: facebook.com/thefamilydinnerproject
Twitter: @FDP_Tweets

On the Table/The Chicago Community Trust
Facebook: facebook.com/thechicagocommunitytrust
Twitter: @ChiTrust

Keep It Going

Make the Commitment

Recognize the things you really enjoy about gathering to share a meal. Share those with your family and make a plan together to repeat the experience. We usually recommend starting with one additional dinner together each week as a family goal.

Make it Simple

Choose a few easy, quick meal ideas for busy nights — sandwiches, salads and even scrambled eggs are all good dinners! Start a list so you always have a fast dinner idea to bring everyone to the table. You might also ask family members to list their favorite dinners, and pick a day on the calendar when you can all work together to make those menus happen

Make it Fun

Try asking each family member to suggest a game or activity for the dinner table. You can also make family dinner a fun place to be by supplying trivia or dice games, inviting special friends to join you or having a spontaneous celebration like “Backwards Night” (dessert first, anyone?). Even something as simple as taking turns telling favorite jokes will make the dinner table a place where everyone wants to gather.

Make it Matter

Think about ways to use your family dinner time as a time to share hopes and dreams, set goals and give everyone a voice. Ask family members to take turns suggesting conversation starters or topics they’d like to discuss. Use the time to plan together for a fun family outing, community service project or other goal-oriented idea. Let everyone be a part of making your dinner conversation count!

For more ideas and resources related to these 4 pillars of family dinner, download our free program Food, Fun and Conversation: 4 Weeks to Better Family Dinners.

For daily food, fun and conversation inspiration, check out Dinner Tonight.

Learn More

Learn about On the Table and how this annual event strengthens communities at onthetable.com, and find out more about the Chicago Community Trust and its programs at cct.org.

Get more resources and inspiration for your family dinners at thefamilydinnerproject.org.