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Community meal promotes family dining

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ARLEE – An estimated 60 people came together in the Arlee High School cafeteria for a hearty meal, conversation and information about integrating family meals into a household routine.

The dinner was the first in a series of monthly meals meant to encourage families to regularly dine together at home. The meals are based on a model created by The Family Dinner Project, which promotes family dinners.

“Sharing a fun family meal is good for the spirit, brain and health of all family members,” the project’s website states.

Makenzie Felsman attended training by The Family Dinner Project to learn about implementing the program. Felsman leads the project as a member of the Arlee Community Development Corporation’s Food Sovereignty committee.

The meals are funded by grants from the Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation and Headwaters Health Foundation of Western Montana.

Felsman said the project is a good fit for the Arlee community. “Our community has seen a lot, so we want to do something to support positive family interactions,” she said.

Rachel Smith attended the meal with her two sons. She said that the event provided an opportunity to visit with friends and extended family. Fifth-grader Josh Horn attended the event for a simple reason: “I wanted to come because of the food,” he said, taking a bite of his taco. Attendees assembled their own tacos, and children made candy corn parfaits for dessert.

Felsman said that a lack of resources and time are among the challenges that families face when trying to plan meals together. After the meal, adults who attended had a discussion about challenges they face when trying to hold family dinners.

Felsman said that her role was not to tell people the right way to hold family dinners. “'You are the world’s expert on your own family’ is our motto,” Felsman said.

Attendees shared tips and collaborated to find solutions that would allow their families to eat meals together, from involving children in meal preparation to preparing a space for meals. They were also given recipes for affordable meals and conversation topic suggestions.

Dinners will be held near the end of each month from now until April. The next community dinner will be on Nov. 29. For more information, call 406-531- 7975 or 406-493-2803.

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