Silly me. I was under the hopeful impression Americans were pining away for Norman Rockwell-style family dinners, when the whole family enjoyed mom’s homemade roast chicken, and kids actually responded with engaging answers to the time-worn question, “so what’dya learn at school today.” Studies even purport that family meals dramatically improve academic performance and reduce drug-use and other at-risk behavior amongst teens.
But Wednesday’s story in the New York Times tells us that even when moms are given every opportunity to put a home-cooked dinner on the table with ease and convenience, they’d just… well, rather not. The Times reports that meal assembly stores, the fastest growing trend in small businesses and franchising during the last three years, is on an unexpected steady decline. Companies such as Dream Dinners, My Girlfriends’ Kitchen, Super Suppers, and Dinner by Design seemingly provide the busy mom’s perfect answer that harkens back to more family-oriented times. In under 2 hours and with little cash, even a self-proclaimed ‘bad cook’ can pull up to a mini-mall storefront, prepare 24 meals with her closest friends and a glass of merlot, bring them home in freezer-ready packages, and sleep happily knowing her family of five will be eating healthy, delicious dinners for the next 3 weeks. But as the industry experiences a sharp decline in revenue and charts store closings across the country, it seems mom just isn’t motivated enough. As the Times explains, last-minute convenience (think Wendy’s on the way home from soccer practice and those ready-in-2-minutes dino nuggets) is about all busy families have time for.
As obesity rates in children continue to rise, and edible food-like substances overwhelm our grocery store shelves, it’s unfortunate that more Americans aren’t taking advantage of the easiest and quickest way to get home-cooked meals on the dinner table.