Family Meals

Eating together as a family can promote family bonding and good nutrition and eating habits.1 Overall, the parents of 46.7 percent of children reported that their families had eaten at least one meal together every day during the previous week. Nearly 32 percent of families were reported to eat meals together on 4–6 days per week, while 18.1 percent ate meals together on only 1–3 days per week and 3.5 percent of families did not eat at least one meal together during the previous week (data not shown). The percentage of children who shared a meal with their families every day in the past week was highest in small rural areas, where 52.9 percent of children did so, followed by those in large rural areas (49.1 percent) and urban areas (45.6 percent).

In all locations, younger children were significantly more likely than older children and adolescents to share meals with their families. In small rural areas, for example, 68.3 percent of children aged 0–5 shared meals with their families every day, compared to 39.2 percent of adolescents aged 12–17. In all age groups, the percentage of children who shared meals with their families every day was significantly higher in small rural areas than in urban areas.

Children with household incomes below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) were also significantly more likely to share meals with their families than children in higher income families, regardless of location. In large rural areas, 59.3 percent of children with household incomes below the FPL shared a meal with their families every day, compared to 38.1 percent of children with household incomes of 400 percent or more of the FPL. The percentage of children in small rural areas who shared meals with their families every day was significantly higher than that of children in urban areas, for only the highest and lowest income categories.

1 Hammons AJ & Fiese BH. Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Related to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents? Pediatrics. 2011;127(6):e1565-e1574.

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