For local families, it was about more than adding topping after topping to build a pizza. It was about taking a step toward building a bond and strengthening the family unit.

Kansas Family Day is a statewide event promoted by agencies and organizations striving to spread youth positivity and prevent substance abuse, according to Linda Beech, County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

“It’s typically on the fourth Monday of September,” Beech said.

To take part, the Ellis County Extension Office, Papa Murphy’s, Kiwanis Club of Hays, and many volunteers joined together to host Family Make and Take Pizza Night on Monday to highlight the importance of a family meal.

“We know that family meals are a protective factor for the kids,” Beech said. “The more often they eat meals with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink and use drugs.”

Approximately 80 pizzas were provided for families who attended on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“We have it set up assembly line style, so families and their young children can come in together, pick up a pizza crust, and move from station to station — working as a family to spread the sauce, and then add cheese and meat,” Beech said.

After doing so, families advanced to a toppings station where they could add a few additional ingredients.

Roxie Korbe and daughter Caylee, 6, Hays, took two pizzas home for dinner.

“We always sit down to eat together as a family,” Korbe said. “I think talking during meals helps, and it builds strong families when you eat together.”

Opening that line of communication during family meal time is key, according to Judy Brummer, family consumer science committee member.

“It allows parents to find out what their kids are doing and kids to know what their parents are doing,” she said. “It helps students do better in school, do better socially and keeps them away from risky behaviors.”

Families had one last stop after building their pizzas, where they received a bag of fresh fruit and vegetables to complete the meal.

Educational material and activities emphasizing the importance of sitting down as a family to eat a healthy meal were then distributed to participating families.

According to Beech, children who eat meals with their families also have better language skills, literacy skills and academic development.

“This is just a really neat event,” she said. “It’s a good reminder that it’s important to eat better and eat together.”