Part 3: Family Style Meals

Do you have a  written policy that promotes family style eating? Family style meal service is recommended for use in child care settings. This type of meal service allows teachers, caregivers, and children to eat together, creating a relaxed environment. Also, this method is ideal for providing a conversational environment where children can not only develop good social skills but can also learn good eating habits.

children sitting around table eating together while food is distributed family style

Characteristics of Family Style Meals

  • Food is placed on the table in serving bowls, plates, or baskets.
  • There are serving utensils for all food.
  • Everyone, including the adult, sits down together and eats the same meal.
  • Food is passed from one person to another.
  • Everyone serves himself (or receives assistance as needed).
  • There is adequate food provided on the table for the children and adults.
  • Children may have second helpings.
  • Everyone participates in a pleasant social atmosphere.
  • There is opportunity to practice cooperation and respect.

For more information on family style dining in child care, please visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.View the video Starting Family Style Dining – Part 1 (3:07) from The Little Brown School in Port Royal, South Carolina for guiding principles on how to start family style dining at your facility. Or refer to New York State Department of Health’s Eat Well Play Hard in Child Care Settings Staff Curriculum–Food Mood.