Portland Jewish Academy is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and is proud of our partnership with them in strengthening our local Jewish community as well as the global community.

Family Style Dining

By Angela Healy

We are excited to announce that our early childhood classrooms will be beginning a new initiative. The new program is often referred to as “Family Style Dining” and will begin during snack times in some of our classrooms. Our pilot program will be introduced in one classroom from each age group. We hope after a successful pilot program that we will introduce this program to all classrooms by the beginning of next year.

“Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity, including parents, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies. Your involvement is key to ensuring a healthy future for our children”

What Does Family Style Dining Look Like?

  • Children are assigned jobs to set the table with cups, pitchers, and food
  • All people in classroom sit down together
  • Children ask to be passed food and serve their own food including pouring from pitchers
  • Children clean up their own place settings and food at the end of the meal

Benefits of Family Style Dining:

Family style dining is a research based practice that has been shown to have many benefits for children. Research has shown us that this dining style helps children to enhance their development of motor skills by passing bowls, scooping foods, using tongs, and drinking out of open cups. Children have an opportunity to gain more language skills by having a larger vocabulary and knowledge about the food that they are eating. Family style dining helps teach our children to self-regulate portion sizes according to their hunger levels and children that experience family style dining have less incidences of childhood obesity. As children learn these new skills during meal times, they build self esteem and develop independence along with lifelong skills such as food preparation and presentation since children participate in the whole process. Here at PJA we are always trying to find ways to help our earth and Family style dining lends a big hand to less food and plastic waste. We are excited to see what other benefits come from implementing these new procedures!

If you are interested in giving it a try at home, here are some tips:

  1. Gather for a couple of meals or snack times at home in which everyone in your family turns off electronics and sits down together to enjoy their meal time.
  2. Think about ways that children can be more independent during meal times. Can they try to scoop their own food? Can they drink out of an open cup? Can they take their own plate to the sink?
  3. Get your children involved in the kitchen! The more involved they are in the process the more likely that they will be excited about the food and be willing to try new things. This will also give you an opportunity to talk about where our food comes from, what a cup of food really looks like, and give your child an opportunity to pour, scoop, and mix!
  4. Children can sometimes need 10-20 times of being exposed to a new food before trying it! Be a role model and keep offering and choosing new foods for yourself.
  5. Most important, have fun with meal times! Play some soft music, put a flower from the garden on the table and enjoy your distraction free time with your family!

More information can be found here:

Spotlight on ...

The Sack Lunch Challenge

On May 22, dozens of PJA families brought boxes and bags full of supplies for some of the most vulnerable populations of Portland. These bags contained sandwiches, fruit, and granola bars. Together, we collected 2500 sack lunches for Blanchet House...

Read More about The Sack Lunch Challenge