SACRAMENTO Kids who eat dinner regularly with their families are less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs, according to research — and the California Restaurant Association is working to point out that those benefits can also be experienced when families dine out together.
Members of the CRA are offering up a full plate of discounts for families during the fourth annual We Are Family Day. The event is scheduled for Sept. 23 in California, where the state’s First Lady Maria Shriver serves as honorary chair of the program.
Family Day is a national movement launched in 2001 by the National Center on Addiction Substance Abuse at Columbia University, where research has found a link between family dining and the avoidance of cigarettes, drugs and alcohol by children.
Typically, the Family Day effort has included public service announcements encouraging families to eat together at home. This year, however, the California Restaurant Association has joined in the partnership, with more than 650 restaurant members offering families free meals for children with the purchase of an adult entrée on Sept. 23 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Individual restaurants will determine such specifics as what age children must be to be eligible and the number of menu items to be offered.
“We have had tremendous response from our membership about this endeavor,” said Jot Condie, CRA president and chief executive. “California restaurateurs are eager to give back to families across the state who have supported them over the years. We know that good things happen around the dinner table, and believe restaurants can play an integral role in strengthening families.”
Participants include such California-based chains as El Pollo Loco, Pasta Pomodoro and Daily Grill, as well as independents across the state, from Corvette Diner in San Diego to Friar Tuck’s Restaurant & Bar in Nevada City, Calif.
California units of national chains, such as Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Corner Bakery Café, are also participating. A full list can be found at www.WeAreFamily.ca.gov  or www.calrest.org .
El Pollo Loco said it would offer one free kids meal with the purchase of any combo meal or family meal, with a limit of two per transaction.
Shriver is scheduled to kick off the event at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., where El Pollo Loco will feed an estimated 700 military members and their families.