At Alpha 180 we eat meals as a community.
Five nights a week dinner is a shared experience with members, staff, and the neighboring community. Universally and generationally, coming together over a shared meal builds fellowship. From Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to the dinner bell ringing at the home on the range–food brings groups together. Before tv, Facebook, and snapchat entered the picture to interrupt this time, simply bringing groups together for a meal would foster interaction. Much of the community-building time of the shared meal has been lost to busy schedules and poor prioritizing. It can be difficult to put away distractions and be present with one another, but recent studies are showing its importance.
For the past 20 years Harvard University has been studying the impact of intentional family meals on its members. The results are showing what we all innately believe: It’s well worth the time. Currently headed by Dr. Anne Fishel, the Family Dinner Project, has used the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, and others to provide empirical evidence to the known truth that continued intentional meals together with family and community has several health benefits to young people:
- Eating healthier
- Lower rates of eating disorders and substance abuse
- Boosts vocabulary
- Lower depression rates
- Greater academic achievement
- Overall improved mental and emotional health
(National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health)
Beyond the measurable benefits for our students. We have observed that coming together at a table and sharing a meal creates a level playing ground. Though there may be a known leader in the group, everyone at the table becomes equals as each break the same bread. Barriers drop when sharing a good meal, and when our guards lower, more of our true self comes through. Thus, the more we are known, the more opportunity we gain to experience love and belonging. Being known and loved is the glue of healthy community.
For centuries, the dinner table has been a gathering place. A place for the older to pour into the younger; for the wiser to share strength, experience, and hope with the newcomer. At the table, stories are shared, laughter roars, connections made, fellowship built. At the table, all have a place.
By: Jesse Gable, LPC | Clinical Director