Celebrating Family Dinners

Cheryl and Dwayne Cjaney
November 5, 2018
by Colleen Callahan

We’ve all heard that making time for family dinner is the right thing to do. But our busy schedules make sitting down together seem impossible. Yet, research shows that family meals boost kid’s self-esteem and success in school. Also, dedicated meal time strengthens the connection kids feel to their parents and lets them know their family will always take care of them.

For Cheryl and her husband, Dwayne, family dinners have always been a priority. Even as working parents, they always made time to share a meal with their two daughters at the end of their day. 

“Family is important to me,” said Cheryl, “and dinner is a time where we can sit down and talk to each other about what’s going on in our lives.”

While Cheryl might have worried about what to prepare for dinner and aligning everyone’s schedules, she never worried about having enough food to provide. Until one day when everything changed.

“My husband’s work downsized,” said Cheryl, “and he was laid off. I’ve worked my entire life, but at that time, I was recovering from a recent back surgery and unable to. So, when my husband lost his job, we lost all of our income.”

As their savings dwindled, it became increasingly hard for Cheryl to provide food to her family. Her oldest daughter was in college at the time, but her youngest was still at home. She often skipped meals so that her daughter could eat. Cheryl lost weight and even found herself having to choose between buying her medicine and food. As a result, her health was suffering. Eventually – even though asking for help wasn’t something Cheryl and her husband wanted to do – she decided to visit her local food pantry.

“Visiting the food pantry for the first time was embarrassing,” Cheryl said. “I never imagined I’d have to ask for help in this way – no one thinks they’ll have to do that. But it feels awful to not be able to provide for your family. It’s heartbreaking. So, I did what I had to do.”

With the help of her local pantry, Cheryl was able to ensure that her family still had enough food for nightly family dinners during that tough time. “Even if we were eating peanut butter sandwiches,” she said, “we still were grateful to have food and have it together.”

Cheryl and her family persevered, and eventually, her husband found a new job and she was able to return to work. Although making ends meet can still be a struggle, they are back on their feet, thanks in part to the help they received from the pantry.

“There’s no telling what would have happened to us if we didn’t have that help from the food pantry,” Cheryl said. “I’ll be forever grateful for their support.”

When parents don’t have enough food for themselves and their children, a shared family meal becomes a luxury. You can help more families have dinner together by donating to Feeding America.