State of the American Family: Mealtime a Top Priority

New Study Shows Families Are Making Time to Eat Together At Home, Kitchen Table Serving as Hub of Home

CONCORD, Mass., January 22, 2013 - The new year is beginning with significant societal challenges (from the national debt crisis to the stability of the middle-class) along with concerns that continue to burden American families (from busy schedules to eating healthier).  On February 12, President Obama will provide his State of the Union Address. But what exactly is the State of the American Family?

Using mealtime as the barometer, a new study released today shows that families are, in fact, stronger than ever - making time to eat together, talking to one another each day, and truly enjoying spending quality time together. Welch's Kitchen Table Report found that 71 percent of respondents say their families eat dinner together as often as or more today than their families did when they were children. Nearly 90 percent of parents say they talk to their children every day about what they think and how they feel.  Moreover, family mealtime is an extremely important part of family life with 84 percent of respondents saying that one of their favorite parts of the day is when their family eats together.  These meals are taking place at the kitchen table, with 68 percent of respondents reporting they eat most meals or snacks together as a family at the table.

“It might feel like the traditional ideal of a family gathered for dinner is only a memory of a bygone era and that today’s families aren’t connected to each other as they are busy running around, texting, and watching TV,” comments registered dietitian and Welch’s Health and Nutrition Advisory Panel member, Sarah-Jane Bedwell. “The truth is parents are making quality time a priority and are using mealtime to share a moment with their children. In fact, research has shown an association between regular family meals and improved family nutrition and overall well-being.  In my experience, families who eat together are happier, healthier, and stronger.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom, most families currently eat dinner together most nights of the week. For example, 75 percent say that, in an average week, they eat together four or more nights. Even more impressive, 34 percent report they eat together seven nights a week, on average.  Not only are families spending time together but they are making it a top priority. In fact, nearly 60 percent of respondents indicate they would rather spend time with their family or a spouse than receive a $5,000 pay raise, lose ten pounds, go on a Caribbean cruise, or get more sleep.

“Families are realizing how important shared moments are,” states Bedwell.  “It doesn’t have to be an extravagant vacation or a pricey outing – memories can be simple moments together.  For example, the daily task of breaking bread together creates a family bond – in the survey we saw that even though most families eat dinner together more than half the time, nearly 60 percent say they’d like to eat together more often.”

Family mealtime is serving as the hub of family life, with the kitchen table acting as mission control.

  • 75 percent of families eat most meals and snacks in the kitchen.
  • The next most common location is the couch, far behind with only 18 percent of parents saying they eat there most often.
  • A mere 3 percent of families say they eat in the car on the go.
  • Only 3 percent of families say they eat in a restaurant or fast food chain.

The kitchen table is centered around food, but it is also central to family life.  Over 70 percent of American families use the kitchen table as a place for catching up as a family, playing games, doing homework, or arts and crafts.  Most respondents (nearly 80 percent) say they use their kitchen table for at least eight separate activities together as a family with 94 percent enjoying a family dinner at the table.

Despite all this good news, the modern American family still faces challenges that impact family mealtime such as a lack of time and financial concerns.  Four-in-ten survey respondents cite the lack of time to cook meals, especially healthy meals, as a top barrier to family mealtimes.  The same number cites busy schedules as another reason it is difficult to eat meals together as a family. 

“The good news is that there are easy solutions to combat the common obstacles facing families at mealtime,” shares Casey Lewis, a registered dietitian and Welch’s Health and Nutrition Lead.  “Welch’s believes in the magic of family moments — and has been helping families enjoy them for generations.  To continue that mission, our experts on the Welch’s Health and Nutrition Advisory Panel have created an online toolkit to help families enjoy more happy and healthy mealtimes together.”

Welch’s new toolkit will include family-friendly meal plans, tips on how to help create more family mealtime moments, heart-healthy recipes featuring Welch’s 100% Grape Juice made with Concord grapes, and meal makeovers. To learn more about this tool and Welch’s survey findings visit Welch's Kitchen Table Report.

About Welch’s

Headquartered in Concord, Massachusetts, Welch’s is the processing and marketing subsidiary of the National Grape Cooperative. Welch’s is owned by more than 1,000 family farmers across America and in Ontario, Canada, who make up this cooperative and who grow the delicious and inherently healthy Concord grapes used in Welch’s juices and other grape-based products. Welch’s is committed to research and development that will meet the growing demand for products that address consumers’ health and nutrition needs. Welch’s products are sold throughout the United States and in approximately 50 countries around the globe. Welch’s is an Equal Opportunity Employer- Minorities/Female/Disabled/Veterans. For more information on Welch’s visit welchs.com

About the Survey

These results are based on 864 telephone interviews among parents or guardians of children under 18 who were identified from a national probability sample of 4,049 adults. Interviews were conducted over the period October 18 - November 13, 2012 utilizing both landline and cell telephones. Results among parents have an error margin of +/- 3%. Interviewing was conducted on behalf of Welch’s® using ORC International’s CARAVAN® survey.