Dec. 3 is Family and Consumer Sciences Day and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences will celebrate by hosting its fourth annual "Dining In" event.

"It's basically to promote dining in as a family, and 'family' can mean all sorts of things — it can be your blood relatives, your friends at college, it can mean a school or a class," said Harvey County Extension Agent Anne Pitts.

On Dec. 3, people are encouraged to prepare and eat a healthy meal and share a photo on social media using the hashtags #FCSday and #healthyfamselfie.

Those who commit to the challenge can choose to prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner.

"It's whatever works for your schedule," Pitts said.

Pitts has been posting recipes and articles about cooking to a Facebook event page to promote "Dining In" and Family and Consumer Sciences Day. The recipes she has chosen to share use everyday ingredients that you may already have on hand in your pantry.

Dining in has several benefits for physical, emotional and mental health.

"It will improve relationships, helps you increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables and helps you lose weight," Pitts said.

Not only does dining in save money, it provides better nutrition and improves children's vocabulary.

"Literacy skills are improved. Little kids who are sitting around, listening to words that they're not using yet but that adults are using, are having to critically think about what that word is," Pitts said.

To participate in "Dining In," people are asked to fill out an online form. If they chose to provide contact information on the form, they become eligible for prize drawings.

"We have people from all over the world committing to dining in," Pitts said.

Kansas has ranked third in the number of "Dining In" participants in recent years, Pitts noted.

The event is held annually on Dec. 3 because that is the birthday of AAFCS founder Ellen Swallow Richards, the first female admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was also the first American woman to earn a degree in chemistry, which she received from Vassar College in 1870.

"She was very interested in chemistry," Pitts said. "She took that knowledge of chemistry and used it to help people."

Along with Mary Hinman Abel, Richards founded the New England Kitchen of Boston, at which they experimented to make inexpensive and nutritious meals. She also played a key role in starting a school lunch program for Boston schoolchildren.

Richards became the first president of the American Home Economics Association in 1908. The organization was renamed the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994.

"It's essentially what home economics used to be," Pitts said.

AAFCS focuses on teaching job-finding skills and life literacy skills like critical thinking, problem solving, etc., for today's world. Fields like early education, apparel marketing and interior design are also taught with an emphasis on preparing for a career.

"It's less how to make eggs or muffins or how to sew on a button and more preparing kids for culinary arts, so if they decide they don't want to go to college, they're ready for a career right away," Pitts said.

For more information about or to commit your family for "Dining In," visit www.aafcs.org/FCSday.