Statistics say children who dine with the family are healthier, happier and better students, which is why one East Lancashire cookery teacher is on a mission to reintroduce the dying tradition.
IT’S long been said that one of the most important things that happy families do is eat dinner together.
Yet a quarter of today's Britons do not even own a dining table and few sit down as a family for their evening meals.
Laura Sumner, who teaches food technology at Shuttleworth College, Padiham, is on a mission to revive the tradition after being shocked by how many of her students eat meals on their knees in front of the TV, or alone.
Laura, 30, was brought up in Blackburn and every night ate atd the dining table with her family — much like every other family she knew.
Now Laura wants to help make the family meal a regular part of modern life by holding free cookery classes in Blackburn and writing her own recipe book.
Laura, 30, from Mellor, said: “I know from what my classes tell me that families don’t sit down at the dinner table to eat their evening meal like I used to.
“Some children will say they have takeaways on their knees, which is unsociable, unhealthy and more expensive than making a meal from scratch.
“Another thing I hear is they have their main meal at school so they will just have a sandwich in their room playing on their computer.
"One child once said they had a crisp sandwich for tea.”
“These sorts of things concern me. It's not a healthy, balanced diet for the child and they are not gaining the social skills built around the dinner table.
“If a family just sit together for half an hour they can share their day’s activities, achieve better communication and build stronger relationships.
"The children even do better in school and the entire family enjoys improved nutrition.
“I know lots of modern families aren’t always the traditional mum and dad set-up, but if a child can sit down without distraction with an adult to eat their evening meal the benefits are huge.“ Laura has launched classes at The Energy Zone' (formerly Roman Road Community Centre) Newfield Drive, Blackburn, which run during half-term and summer.
“My next sessions are in July when families are invited to come along and learn how to cook a meal together.
"The last sessions I did got a lot of positive feedback and were attended by all the family.
“My main aim is to convince families that you can make a healthy meal from scratch for less than a ready meal or jar sauce and it’ll be so much better for you.”
Laura, who studied home economics at A-level, added: “Some children don’t even know how to do simple things like peel vegetables because they are not taught.
"I’d love to see the curriculum changed to reintroduce the traditional stuff.
“Some children have never made fairy cakes with their family because modern life has taken over, but children need these sorts of skills to pass on to the next generation.
"A child told me recently he’d taught his grandma how to make a soup we’d done in class.
"I was over the moon.”
Laura is writing a book which will include wholesome recipes, the history dishes and a memory from her family scrapbook.
The book has already attracted interest from publishers and looks set to be completed later this year.
Laura’s ultimate aim is to introduce the book into classrooms.
She said: “I want teachers to use my book as a tool for bringing the home economics style we were taught back into the classroom.”