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Eat. Talk.Connect! Will your family accept the challenge?

Hubbard County families are being challenged to "Eat. Talk. Connect!"

The challenge is for families to eat at least three meals together each week for three months.

A meal together will be defined as a time when all or most family members who live in the same household sit down anywhere together for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Mari Jo Lohmeier, Healthy Communities Coordinator for St. Joseph's Area Health Services, has been working on the community effort.

"I was amazed when I started looking into the statistics that families who eat together do better in school," she said.

Parents are also more likely to know their children's friends and families and know where their kids are, Lohmeier said.

She understands that it's difficult for some families to make time to eat together but she knows there are benefits.

"It's important to start these habits early," Lohmeier said. "It doesn't need to be supper. Even having breakfast together with the TV off."

Meals together don't have to be home-cooked gourmet affairs, they can be as simple as sandwiches and a glass of milk. Restaurant and take-out meals count as long as everyone gathers.

It's the time together connecting that matters more than the food or the location.

Lohmeier has been handing out packets that include recipe ideas, calendars to document when families have had meals together and table conversation starter cards provided by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Hubbard County.

"Eat. Talk. Connect!" is sponsored by St. Joseph's Area Health Services, Healthy Park Rapids Area 2010 and the Hubbard County Child Abuse Prevention Council.

The challenge begins Nov. 1 when families can start checking off dates over the course of November, December and January when they get together at mealtimes. Drawings will be held during the challenge.

Lohmeier hopes families continue with the challenge after the three months.

To register or receive more information about "Eat. Talk. Connect!" call Lohmeier at 237-5596. Tool kits will also be available at the Park Rapids Century Elementary and Middle School offices.