The Dryden Observer

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Show us what family dinners mean to you

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

I’m looking forward to an opportunity to worm my way into the homes of Dryden families over the next few months as part of a special project and partnership between the Dryden Observer and the Northwestern Health Unit.

The Family Dinner Project isn’t exactly an original idea, it’s more of a movement that we’re looking to tap into. NWHU health promoters Saralyn Semeniuk and Jessica Kivell turned me onto an amazing online photo feature published by the New York Times: Why does it matter that families eat together? — 16 powerfully intimate photographs featuring the diverse inhabitants of New York in their homes sharing a meal with their families.

“We want to do this here,” they said.


Well, because a great deal of thought and study has gone into the correlation between family dinners and the social outcomes of young people. A paper published last month by Columbia University’s National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse reveals that frequent family dinners (five or more times per week) can be the most relevant factor in parent-child relationships.

Kids who have strong relationships with their parents are three times less likely to have used marijuana and two-and-a-half times less likely to have used alcohol or tobacco.

Kids who eat with their parents have stronger vocabularies, do better in school. They are less likely to become obese or get pregnant while still a teenager. Kids report lower stress levels and parents report a higher level of knowledge and involvement in their kids’ lives.

Certainly, the social science behind the Family Dinner Project is worthy of getting behind and promoting to the public. Yet, what really grabs me about this idea is the opportunity to make a window into family life. To reflect a rich, diverse and sometimes sacred part of Canadian family culture that is normally beyond what a newspaper might seek.

We think of news as that which is out-of-the-ordinary. I think that perhaps it’s ‘the ordinary’ (in its infinite forms) that plays the biggest role in our development as healthy, civilized human beings.

What exactly is ‘normal’, or ‘ordinary’ for families is a fascinating question that never has the same answer twice. It’s as individual as a fingerprint and a beautiful thing to share with others.

By way of the contest on our website, my hopes are to be invited into a few local homes to photograph families at dinner — nothing staged or elaborately contrived — you don’t even have to feed me!

The Dryden Observer and NWHU want to publish these images in the paper and online in an ongoing campaign to promote the habit of families eating together.

With an iPad and 50 $20 grocery cards to give away, we’re hoping to entice as many families as possible to enter our contest and tell us a little bit about their family mealtimes.


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