Eat together, eat better!
For most children, school mealtimes are a rushed event. At my daughter’s school, she has about 20 minutes to come inside from playing, take off her jacket (and snow pants, and boots…), change into her “indoor shoes,” get her lunch kit and settle at her desk and eat her lunch, without a teacher present in the classroom.
Needless to say, lunch often comes home uneaten.
Compare this with school children in France, who get over an hour to eat a hot lunch prepared by chefs at the school, eaten with real cutlery and conversation around a table. France is known for its lack of obesity despite a diet based on white bread, cheese, meat and wine. French children are also known to eat a wide variety of “adult foods” from a young age, without relying on food shaped like a bunny, goldfish or with a cartoon character on the box.
What research tells us is that food is not only about nutrition. When we eat together, we develop social and communication skills. We learn about sharing and gratitude.
It is well documented that children who dine regularly with their family eat more balanced meals and are less likely to have weight problems. They are less likely to smoke, or use drugs or alcohol. They perform better at school.
Focused mealtimes help prevent disengaged eating and allow us to become more aware of our natural hunger and satiety cues.
Food nourishes, but so does the environment surrounding us when we eat it. At mealtimes food is a connection point, something to be celebrated and explored together.
This year, the Shuswap Food Action Society will be piloting an intergenerational hot lunch program, “Kindie-buddies”, connecting seniors and kindergarteners to prepare and share a meal together one day per week (Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) The focus of the program is about having fun around food and exploring the benefits of eating together. If you are “young at heart,” and are excited by the idea of buddying up with some kindergarten students to enjoy some tasty local food, please email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.