Do you need some motivation to cook a delicious meal from scratch this weekend? Sunday is the perfect day to do it, as it happens to be Dine In Day. Families across the United States are encouraged to stay in and prepare a healthy meal to share together at the table.

This celebration of home cooking and family meals is the brainchild of the American Association for Family and Consumer Sciences which has, for the past three years, chosen Dec. 3 as its official Family and Consumer Sciences Day. The association asks families make and share a meal on this day in order to promote good nutrition and family togetherness.

Since 2014, more than 300,000 people have publicly committed to dining in on the annual Family and Consumer Sciences Day. This day also celebrates the birthday of Ellen Swallow Richards, the founder of what is now the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, formerly called the American Home Economics Association. The website also lists more than 30 different sponsors or partners in this international initiative.

On Dine In Day, people are encouraged to make a commitment to preparing and eating healthy meals with their family or others in their community. The meal can be plain or fancy — the important part is it is shared together in a setting of community eating, whether with your own family or a group you invite to eat home-prepared foods together.

This is a fitting tribute to Ellen Richards, who believed in people working together and valuing family and community. Richards, a chemist, was the first female graduate and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was an activist for nutrition, foods education, child protection, public health, women’s rights and the application of scientific principles to everyday living for the family. Her activism, vision and professional experiences led to formalization of the home economics profession and founding of the American Home Economics Association (now AAFCS) in 1909.

Research has shown the whole family benefits from family mealtime by having better nutrition, improving family communication, fostering family traditions and teaching life skills, such as meal planning, budgeting and food preparation. Families that eat together at home eat more vegetables, enjoy more family conversations, and reduce the risk of substance abuse in teens. Eating together as a family is more than just a meal, it is an opportunity for families to come together regularly in support of family unity. Most research suggests parents and children value sharing a meal together and find the experience rewarding. Although there is no guarantee eating together as a family will resolve all family problems, it might provide the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Join me in signing the pledge to “Dine In” on FCS Day, Dec. 3. You can make the commitment at the AAFCS website, www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home. Then check out the interactive map and see who else is "Dining In" across the country and around the world.

Make your family, our country and our world a healthier and more cohesive place, one home-prepared meal at a time. Plan to “Dine In” on FCS Day this Sunday.

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.