Substance Abuse Coalition Launches Family Dinner Initiative

Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition (PBCSAC), a nonprofit organization aimed at creating a drug-free environment for the community, is urging all families to plan frequent family dinners as a way to combat substance abuse.

Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are more than twice as likely to say that they expect to try drugs in the future, according to reports by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

According to their report, those who have infrequent family dinners are almost twice as likely to have used alcohol; one and a half times more likely to have used marijuana; more than one and a half times more likely to have friends who drink regularly, use marijuana and abuse prescription drugs; and one and a quarter times more likely to have friends who use illegal drugs such as acid, ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

In 2001, CASA began a grassroots initiative called Family Day, which has blossomed into a nationwide celebration. Family Day promotes parental engagement as a simple and effective way to reduce children’s risk of smoking, drinking and using illegal drugs.

PBCSAC is thrilled to be bringing the movement here. A pilot program was recently launched at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Royal Palm Beach, where nearly 100 people participated.

Sheila Fulkerson, a local mother of eight children, participated in the initial dinner.

“I loved the conversation starters,” she said. “It helped me connect with my kids in new ways that I can use at home.”

Studies show that teens who have numerous family dinners are more likely to report positive relationships with their parents and share more about what is going on in their day-to-day lives.

“The magic of the dinners is not the meal, but the conversations that take place around the meal,” PBCSAC Director Jeff Kadel said. “If you knew that taking the time to sit down to dinner five to seven times a week with your child would more than likely help your child lead a drug-free life, why would you not take the time?”

The initiative is generally celebrated on the fourth Monday in September, but the concept can be employed anytime during the year.

PBCSAC has a toolkit at to describe how any faith-based organization, school or community can help establish this movement in their social circle.

Contact PBCSAC Program Coordinator Alexa Lee at or call (561) 844-5952 for more information.


ABOVE: Susan Foley of Innovative Leisure teaches parents and kids games to connect with each other.