When I learned the Winter 2007 issue of Emory Magazine would focus on food and health, I thought about my life growing up. I benefited from a family that cooked together and ate together every night. This habit instilled in me a love for cooking and for sharing a meal with family and friends. To this day, mealtime is a wonderful time for me to catch up with the many people who are important in my life. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee, as elaborate as a three-course meal, or as busy as a buffet at an alumni reception.
The relationship between food and the family is not lost on Emory researchers, particularly faculty in the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL). A recent conference at MARIAL focused on exactly that subject and the research discussed there was fascinating.
One of the highlights was a presentation by Emory psychology professors Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush on their Family Narratives Project. Their findings include compelling data that show families who regularly share meals have children who know more about their family history and tend to have higher self-esteem, better interaction with their peers, and higher resilience in the face of adversity. When I think about that, I think about my parents, who always made sure our family ate dinner together every night. Not infrequently, this practice was against my wishes. But they knew what they were doing, and I will always be grateful.
I know many people were not as fortunate as I was to have a strong, supportive family. We in the Emory community are blessed in that we most likely do not have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. Not everyone is as fortunate as we, yet Emory alumni all over the country understand the tremendous struggles faced by the homeless and hungry; and in November, our entire alumni community responded for the fourth-annual Emory Cares International Service Day.
In Atlanta, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Savannah, Seattle, and Arlington, Virginia, Emory alumni, students, parents, and friends came together to volunteer at food banks or in soup kitchens. In all, twenty-eight cities around the world hosted Emory Cares service projects. President Jim Wagner and his wife, Debbie, joined Louisiana alumni, parents, and friends for a partnership build with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity. Emory Cares projects were not limited to North American shores. Jeff Koplan, vice president for academic health affairs and former CDC director, gave the talk “Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance” at an Emory Cares event in London, one of two international cities taking part in the service day. The other, in Seoul, brought together alumni for a day’s volunteering at The Peace House, a center for mentally and physically disabled men.
In all, some 1,000 members of the Emory community—more than double our previous high—participated in Emory Cares service projects ranging from the ones I mentioned above to environmental cleanups, nonprofit assistance, working with Boys and Girls Clubs, and much more. Our alumni have sent us hundreds of pictures from many of these service projects—including very moving images from Seoul. You can see them all on the Emory Cares website at www.alumni.emory.edu/news/emorycares.
Finally, I hope you have noticed our new name. We are now known as the Emory Alumni Association. It’s a subtle change but an important one. Not only do we now have a moniker that’s easier to digest, the new name also keeps alumni relations—not to mention the 100,000 alumni of this great institution we serve—at the forefront of the Emory community. To go along with our new name, we have a new logo; and if you receive email from us, our message format has changed, too. The staff here at the EAA (our new acronym), as well as many of our constituents—both on campus and among alumni leaders—are very excited about what we feel are positive changes.
If you have comments about our new name, would like to let us know how we are doing, or even if you would like to share a recipe, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always enjoy hearing from you.