This post was sponsored by the National 4-H Council as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
I come from what can only be described as a big southern family, and it is only getting bigger every year. I’ve got a gaggle of aunts and uncles, which, in turn, has led to more cousins than I can count. Now all those cousins have grown up and are popping out kids at an exponential rate. There’s seems to be a new baby every time I see them. I’ve given up on trying to learn their names at this point. They all seem to start with the letter “C” for some reason.
As a group, we don’t always stay in touch that well despite everyone living in the same general part of the state. Sure, we are all connected through Facebook but we rarely gather together more than a handful at a time. I understand. We all live pretty disparate lives. Logistically, it’s a bit mind-boggling with a group this large as well.
Which is why we’ve made it a point to gather everyone together for one big party this time of year. I’m not kidding when I say big. Friends quickly become part of that family too. We tend to take over entire park pavilions. This is the only time of year we get to do it this way.
When you get to see these family members in person, things take on a more human element. Conversations take on more context than a Facebook post. Pictures may be worth 1,000 words but sometimes you like to hear those 1,000 words spoken. Bridges get mended. Past stories get retold and usually laughed over. Newborns get coddled.
And boy is there food. Southerners love their comfort food and they love to share their culinary creations with others. As the core group of the family has started to get a bit older, there is definitely less fried and fatty foods and we’ve drifted towards fresh game and seafood. Grilled oysters on the half shell have become the tradition. Nobody in my family is wealthy by any means, but we always eat like kings. As my grandmother used to say, ‘If you go home hungry, it is your own darn fault.’ Her language might have been a little more flowery.
Most importantly, it tends to set the tone for the rest of the year. This is the time when plans are made for those smaller family gatherings in the coming new year. Fishing excursions and hunting trips are planned out and life schedules are compared so weekends at Disney can overlap. Invitations are extended so there is plenty of time to buy tickets or book rooms. Heads ups are given for major life events like weddings and baby showers.
That is why it is important to share these sorts of meals with your loved ones during this time of year. It is the reaffirmation of the family bond, and, of course, it all revolves around food. That is why the 4-H Council began their Food Smart Families Program. Everyone deserves a meal like this.
According to the 4-H Council, nearly 16 million children live in households that are food insecure, meaning they don’t have consistent access to food throughout the year. The Food Smart Families program seeks to empower youth and their families with the knowledge to make healthy living part of their everyday lives through nutrition education, cooking skills and food budgeting skills to bring more affordable, nutritious foods into their households on a budget. They do this by connecting families eligible for or receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and/or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) with nutrition assistance resources in their community. Since 2011, UnitedHealthcare and 4-H have partnered together to deliver healthy living programs to more than 340,000 youth and their families in 14 states. Their goal is to eventually extend the program into every county across the country.
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