Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF
FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-
The Family Meal.
During earlier Ozzie and Harriet-like times, the late afternoon/early evening ritual was the norm, a time to re-energize from the toils of school and work as a homogenous group. Hectic, contemporary lifestyles have led to an erosion of that popular tradition.
On Thanksgiving Day 2007, I blogged the following:
Today, a rarity will take place in homes all across America.
Families will gather, and sit down, and dine, as a group, together, all at the very same time.
That doesn’t happen very often in a country inhabited by residents constantly on the go.
I wrote about this when Former President Bush and Barbara Bush promoted FAMILY DAY two months ago:
“What’s really sad is that it has come to this. Researchers at a top university, with the help of the President and his mother, need to commemorate one day out of the year to remind us that it’s a good idea to eat together as a family. This should just come naturally without public service announcements or special observances.”
Today’s holiday is conducive for a family get-together. Thanksgiving is more relaxed than Christmas. There’s less jumping around, no ripping open boxes, not as much excitement.
A perfect setting for a nice, family sit-down. A 2006 study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University titled: The Importance of Family Dinners III, notes the importance of family mealtimes in developing and maintaining a healthy family.
This is timely and important reading on this Thanksgiving Day, the opening statement for the study made by CASA Chairman and President, Joseph A. Califano, Jr.:
For 11 years, CASA has been conducting a back to school survey of the attitudes of teens and those, like parents, who most influence them. While other surveys seek to measure the extent of substance abuse in the population, the CASA back to school survey probes substance abuse risk and identifies factors that increase or diminish the likelihood that teens will smoke, drink or use illegal drugs. We believe that parents, armed with this knowledge, can help their teens grow up drug free.
This nation’s drug problem is all about kids. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so. And no one has more power to prevent kids from using substances than parents. There are no silver bullets; unfortunately, the tragedy of a child’s substance abuse can strike any family. But one factor that does more to reduce teens’ substance abuse risk than almost any other is parental engagement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners.
This year’s survey findings underscore the significance of family dinners as a surrogate for parental engagement. Parents who sit down to dinner five or more times a week with their children are parents who are very involved in their kids’ lives. In this day and age, with the high incidence of two-income families and single-parent households, and the increasing demands on kids’ time from school and other activities, it is not an easy task to get the whole family together at the dinner table. Those families that make family togetherness a priority are achieving a level of involvement in their children’s lives that has a healthy impact on their kids. The parents who make dinners a priority are also, as this year’s survey findings demonstrate, likelier to say they take responsibility for preventing their kids from abusing substances.
Family Dinners and Parental Involvement in Kids’ Lives Compared to parents who report having frequent family dinners (five or more per week), parents who say they have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are: • five times likelier to say they have a fair or poor relationship with their teen; • one and a half times likelier to say they know the parents of their teen’s friends not very well or not at all; • more than twice as likely to say they do not know the names of their teen’s teachers; and • twice as likely to say that parents deserve not very much blame or no blame at all when a teenager uses illegal drugs. More than a decade of surveying teens has taught us that parents can significantly reduce their childrens’ risk of using substances by knowing their teen’s friends and the parents of their friends, being engaged at their kid’s school, and chaperoning their teen’s parties, among other things. The remarkable thing about family dinners is that those parents who make it a habit to have frequent dinners with their children are also the parents who are taking these actions that have a major impact on teen substance abuse risk. Family Dinners and Teen Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use CASA research has consistently shown that the more often teens have dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. This report, The Importance of Family Dinners III, which draws from the results of CASA’s 11th annual back to school survey, finds that, compared to teens who have five or more family dinners per week, teens who have two or less are: • more than twice as likely to have tried cigarettes; • one and a half times likelier to have tried alcohol; and • twice as likely to have tried marijuana. This year we also examined the relationship between family dinners and rates of current smoking and drinking among teens. Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are: • twice as likely to say they smoke at least one cigarette a day; and • more than twice as likely to say they get drunk at least once a month. Frequency of Family Dinners This year, 58 percent of teens report having dinner with their family at least five times a week, the same proportion as we have observed over the past several years. Among families that have infrequent family dinners, parents and teens do not always agree on the reasons why dinners are not more frequent: • The reason most commonly given by teens for why family dinners are not more frequent is because parents work late. • The reason most commonly given by parents is “conflicting schedules.” More than one in five parents and teens say they are “too busy” to have dinner together more often. Given the importance of frequent family dinners and the powerful impact parental engagement has in preventing teen substance abuse, families should identify and work to overcome the barriers to frequent family dining. Late work hours, after-school activities and long commutes all come at the expense of valuable family time.
This survey and our prior studies on the subject show a number of important benefits of frequent family dining. For instance, kids who have frequent family dinners are half as likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and one-third less likely to drink alcohol. Teens who dine frequently with their parents are likelier to have parents who take responsibility for teen drug use, and they are 40 percent likelier to say future drug use will never happen.
If I could wave a magic wand to make a dent in the substance abuse problem, I would make sure that every child in America had dinner with his or her parents at least five times a week. There is no more important thing a parent can do. Parental engagement in children’s lives is key to ridding our nation of the scourge of substance abuse.
Bon appetit, America!
---This Just In, November 22, 2007
Today, a typical weekday could see Dad working late or attending a meeting. Bobby has football practice. Susan has band practice. Billy is working at a fast food joint after school. Mom volunteered at the library that afternoon so dinner will be later than usual, even if the family is all assembled. The scenario is real and understood.
But Thanksgiving Day should be viewed as the quintessential family mealtime. Most people aren’t working. The feast is the main reason folks get together, the most anticipated dinner of the entire year. With family dinners in decline, surely Thanksgiving Day is sacred, right?
Maybe not. Thanksgiving as the universally-accepted certain opportunity for families to gather as one could be in jeopardy.
Kohl’s announced last week that it is the latest major retailer that will be opening its doors early on Thanksgiving night, at 8 p.m., to give shoppers a head start on Black Friday shopping. Macy’s, K-Mart and JC Penney have also announced 8 p.m. openings on Thanksgiving while Target and Toys R’ Us are planning 9 p.m. openings and Wal-Mart will open at 10 p.m.
That means in many households as soon as the fork hits the plate for the last time people will exit to rush to one or more of the above-mentioned retailers to get what they sense is a desperate need to get a head start on Black Friday shopping. Many will want to stake their place in line for what are sure to special deals to the first X number of shoppers in the door.
To accommodate these early birds, dining schedules might be altered so that turkey is served much earlier in the day, keeping the family ritual intact. Even so, the retail allure will attract large numbers who exit their guest’s home early, thereby reducing the amount of quality time spent with loved ones. Because, by God, they’ve just got to get their hands on the toy of the century at exactly 8:01.
Pam Lawrence of Arlington Heights works as a counter manager at a department store and will be unable to host Thanksgiving this year because she’ll be on the job for the first time on the holiday. She contends this business development is funeral.
“Please write an obituary because I think this death needs to be acknowledged,” she told the Chicago Daily Herald.
“It is the death of Thanksgiving. It broke my heart, even though I knew it was coming. We have massacred Thanksgiving. It is now the shopping day.
“What do I say? ’Hey, everybody. Come over for hamburgers and hot dogs about 2 because I have to be at work by 7.
“We killed it. We killed Thanksgiving. It’s gone.”
Obviously, we know why Black Friday has morphed into Turkey Day. Shoppers have demanded it, and retail competition is fierce.
Stores open on Thanksgiving might have been unheard of in the past. But is this crisis time?
Talk-show host Austin Hill provides another perspective on Townhall.com:
“Well, how about this: if I’m shopping in a store – on Thanksgiving Day or any other day – then, yes, somebody else is working. And given that roughly one-third of the entire population of the United States is not working at all right now; and that the country’s labor force participation rate is at a thirty year low; and that the consumption of the federal Foodstamps and Medicaid welfare programs is at an all-time high – I’m thinking that if somebody is ambitious enough to work, even on Thanksgiving Day, then that’s a good thing. Beyond that, this ginned-up crisis is foolish…”
And then Hill provides specific reasons why.
As a strong proponent of the free market, I get the retailers’ decisions. Ideally I see a Thanksgiving where families remain united, at home, and businesses review the turnout and go back to locking their doors on that Thursday. That is not happening. In fact, even more stores will be operating next Thanksgiving, and the next, and the next.
No, Thanksgiving most assuredly isn’t dead. But it will never be the same.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES
Given the relationship between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood, should you buy Girl Scout cookies? And what to do when the Scout rings your door bell?
There is a God! Is a high fat diet GOOD for you?