Celebrating National Family Meals Month

In a time when there's a new awareness theme every week, it's easy to miss (or dismiss) the trend. But this September marks the fifth annual National Family Meals Month, a topic which warrants some attention – especially for grocers. Why? Here are a few reasons the custom is so important, and what businesses need to understand in order to create a meaningful user experience for their shoppers.

Culturally, eating together as a family is serious business. A series of studies from worldwide organizations have found that students who don't eat dinners with their families are more likely to be truant from school; become overweight or obese; and struggle with alcohol and drugs. Inversely, eating with family corresponds to performing better in school and eating healthier. Dinner table conversation has also been shown to boost vocabulary and learning in young children – even more so than reading.

Despite the benefits of communal meals, solo eating has become common fare for Americans. In many families, both parents work outside the home, making evenings a chaotic time. It's increasingly easy to order meals online from nearby restaurants. And TVs and computers have taken over kids' leisure time – often extending in meals. 

In recent years, Americans have gotten more interested in eating well, quality time, and unplugging from their phones. Especially as millennials become parents, and the dangers of screen-time in young children become more visible, many Americans crave a return to home-cooked family meals.

The problem is, it's not always easy. Many parents are short on time, have various dietary restrictions to contend with, feel little or no interest in becoming home chefs. 

Fortunately, many grocers are listening. Just this month, as part of National Family Meals Month, ShopRite launched "From Our Family to Yours" – a campaign that showcases the fifty families who own ShopRite's 276 stores, and offers in-store events like dietitian-led food demonstrations and cooking classes complete with free recipe books. 

Weis Markets, who own and operate almost 200 stores in the northeast U.S., is hosting a similar campaign with free in-store workshops for both children and adults, as well as special editions of circulars and even podcasts. Their focus is on meal planning, tips for creating fast meals, and grocery shopping on a budget.

SpartanNash, the grocer and distributor, is taking their campaign online and asking consumers to commit to having one more meal together at home. They've created the #FamilyMealsMonth and #OurFamilyMeals to gain more visibility online. They are also hosting live Q&A sessions on Facebook to answer questions about food, cooking, and nutrition.

Family meals are an important part of consumers' lives, and the grocer who understands that is more likely to position itself as a lasting and valuable part of a consumers' lifestyle.

While workshops and recipe books are a great way to attract customers, the savviest grocers know that there are more systemic ways to address the issue of family meals. Emerging technology has brought sophisticated new developments to the grocery scene, such as CookIt – a meal planning tool that uses AI to provide personalized recipes and product recommendations on your existing eCommerce site. To learn more about CookIt and other end-to-end grocery eCommerce software check out our products.

Carly McHale