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Food and Family

Sharing Food, Sharing Comfort
By: Solomon H. Katz, PhD

In times of conflict, it's important to discuss our feelings and concerns around our dinner tables. It is well known that in times of stress people often do not eat appropriately, increasing their vulnerability to illness. Therefore, mealtime not only provides much needed emotional support, but also nutritional support.

One important contribution you can offer to those around you—especially those with family members overseas—is to extend an invitation to join you and your family for a relaxed meal with comforting food. Encourage everyone to share in preparing and serving the meal. Providing a sense of belonging and caring during mealtime can be a source of support even in unspoken ways. Sometimes simple acts of kindness and generosity that each of us can extend to our families, friends and neighbors can provide just what is needed to make a difference in their lives.

We'd like to know how you've found comfort during this difficult time. Please send us an e-mail at .

Starting this week, invite someone you know to have breakfast or lunch with you. Not only will you be providing an act of kindness, it could also help the people you know stay connected and grounded in a time of uncertainty. You might have a special dinner where you encourage your guests and their children to come early and help prepare the meal together. If you know people who are eating alone, invite them to join you for a dinner. Such a simple act can make a wonderful difference. Fostering a natural flow of conversation can help dispel fears and encourage people to go on with their normal routine. Discussing a recent article or news program about the war in Iraq may be another way to help work through our fears and feelings.

Many children may not fully comprehend what war means and what our country is dealing with right now. We need to be cognizant of this and particularly sensitive to their needs at this time. Try to encourage kids to talk about the issue around the dinner table, where they can receive support from more than one loving adult. Ask them what their friends and teachers are saying about recent events. While the context of this meal is serious, parents and friends all have to recognize that it is OK to have fun, too. In fact, laughing and enjoying each other is a vital part of getting through tough times.

Sharing a meal together is a communal act that is fundamental to the universal human experience. It can provide the context for many to feel better. For some, beginning a meal together with a prayer or even a moment of silence is a helpful way to find peace. Let everyone know that the meal you are sharing is a time when people can feel free to be heard and to express their concerns in a supportive setting.

About Solomon H. Katz, PhD

Solomon Katz is an active member of FoodFit's Advisory Board. He is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, Editor in Chief of Scribner's Multi-volume Encyclopedia of Food and Director of the WM Krogman Center for Research in Child Growth and Development.

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