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Getting Started Accordian

Who can join The Family Dinner Project?

Families come in all shapes and sizes: Couples with and without children, single parents, multiple generations under one roof, work families, college and school families, neighborhoods and whole communities. No matter what your family make-up is, where you live, or what your dinners are like now, you can be part of The Family Dinner Project.

What does it mean to join The Family Dinner Project?

Joining The Family Dinner Project means that you and your family are making a commitment to have more and better dinners together by:

  • Setting goals for your family dinners
  • Using ideas from our website and your own creativity to learn what works for your family
  • Committing to work towards your family dinner goals until your new habits take hold

How do I start The Family Dinner Project with my family?

STEP 1: Commit to working on your family dinners for at least a month

Which of your family dinner habits will you and your family commit to changing? It takes most people 1-3 months to change their habits, and changing is hard work. If you really want to change your family dinners:

  • Decide on one or two aspects of your dinners to work on for at least a month.
  • Start with small changes that are realistic for where your family is now.

Don’t get to the table as often as you’d like? Choose at least one night a week to set aside for family dinner. If evenings don’t work, find a time for breakfast or nighttime snack.

Already eat together regularly but want to improve the quality of your dinners? Decide which aspect of the food, fun or conversation you want to change, and put a plan in place. For instance, if you want to start sharing more of the workload for meal preparation and clean-up, assign a different task to each family member.

STEP 2: Set goals as a family

What do you and your family members want out of your family mealtime? Our Goal Sheet helps each family member set individual goals for improving your family dinners. After each family member who is old enough completes his/her own worksheet, take some time to share your responses as a family.

STEP 3: Start by sharing one meal together

What should you make for dinner? The FOOD section of our website has menu plans that will help you put delicious, healthful dinners on the table. You’ll also find links to other websites with thousands of recipes for you to choose from.

What should you talk about? The FUN and CONVERSATION sections of our website have lots of tools and resources to help your family make the most of your time at the table. Choose one that’s right for your family.

How can everyone in the family get involved? Meal preparation is more fun if everyone works together. Many of our Family Blog post share stories and ideas about how kids can help in the kitchen. Dr. Anne Fishel also shares some excellent ideas about how to make cooking fun in her Food for Thought blog posts.

STEP 4: Assess your progress

How will you know you are making progress? All family members can help complete the Dinner Log worksheet after your meal. This log will help you track each of your meals to get a sense of what’s working and what’s not. For advice on how to work through common obstacles – such as time constraints, arguing at the table and texting during dinner – see our FAQ. You can also submit your own question to our team.

How have your family dinners changed? After a month, take some time as a family to talk about your progress. Filling out a second set of Goal Sheets is one way to assess your progress; you can compare the second worksheets to the originals to see how far you’ve come.

How do I start The Family Dinner Project with a school, community group or neighborhood?

Starting The Family Dinner Project in a school, community group or neighborhood is a powerful way to create a community of support for individual families who want to change their dinner habits.

Perhaps your group shares our mission of supporting the success of families. Perhaps your school, club, senior center or religious organization is looking for more ways to help families share meaningful time together. Or perhaps you’d like to organize dinners for your neighborhood or network of friends. Whatever your group or community is like, The Family Dinner Project can help the families you care about have healthier, more frequent, more meaningful meals together.

Whether a single event or a series of dinners, you can use our resources to start The Family Dinner Project where you live. We provide you with:

  • Training sessions for your organizers
  • A checklist for organizers
  • Conversation starters and food preparation advice
  • Answers to frequently asked questions

To learn more about how to create a dinner project for your school, neighborhood or community group, please contact The Family Dinner Project Team.

Or, if your goal is to bring more healthy, fun and meaningful meals to a school or after-school program, learn more about The Family Dinner Project’s Lunch Mentors Program.

How do I start The Family Dinner Project with a parenting group?

Mealtimes are the perfect opportunity to share time as a family in ways that are healthy, meaningful and fun. It is also a place to promote habits that will help young children become happy, resilient, responsible adults. However, while many young parents are aware of the importance of family dinners, eating together as a family can be challenging.

Parent groups are a wonderful, safe place to speak about dinner challenges, and to share mealtime resources and wisdom. The Family Dinner Project has designed a workshop specifically geared toward young parenting groups.

Together we will:

  • Discuss research that links family dinners to positive child development.
  • Talk about the challenges of family dinners – from picky eaters, to busy schedules to tight budgets and beyond.
  • Share the group’s good ideas to overcome dinnertime challenges.
  • Share tips and resources from The Family Dinner Project.
  • Talk about everyone’s hopes for their individual families and how to help each other succeed.

To host a workshop of The Family Dinner Project at your parenting group — or to become a parent group facilitator — please contact The Family Dinner Project team.

How do I start The Family Dinner Project with a college or university?

The Campus Community Dinner Series encourages conversations between college students and members of the local community. Together, students and families in the community learn about healthy cooking, prepare and share nutritional dinners and engage in thoughtful conversations.

By pairing college students and families who have teenage children, the program facilitates important conversations about the next step in a high schooler’s education. College students are able to offer advice about applying to universities, living independently, and getting the most out of the college experience. These guided conversations encourage high school students to think about the value of higher education. Additionally, college students build a deeper connection to their community, and they form new friendships.

If you’re interested in starting a Campus Community Dinner Series at your college or university, The Family Dinner Project will provide you with tools, training and advice. These include:

  • Training sessions for student conversation facilitators
  • A checklist for organizers
  • Conversation starters and food preparation advice
  • Answers to frequently asked questions
  • Assessment tools

For more information, please contact The Family Dinner Project team.