Leighton Meester Shares Her and Adam Brody's Super Sweet Dinnertime Ritual

Leighton Meester here, your one and only source into the busy AF life of parents, telling E! News how she and Adam Brody are prepping for the school year and talking to their kids about giving back.

By Sarah Grossbart Aug 09, 2023 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Would Leighton Meester Do a Guest Spot on "Gossip Girl" Reboot?

Growing up, Leighton Meester's life wasn't all headbands and high-end designers. 

Just a few years before she was picked to play Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf, teenage queen of the Upper East Side who never met a Marc Jacobs frock she didn't know how to rock, the Texas-born teen model was struggling to afford the basic necessities. 

"We relied on food stamps and welfare," the 37-year-old actress shared in an exclusive interview with E! News' Francesca Amiker. "And especially towards the end of the month, but sometimes throughout the month, we either couldn't go grocery shopping or put food back on the shelves before checkout. We really had to do what we could to make ends meet." 

And that's a secret she's more than happy to tell, Meester well aware that raising awareness about the more than 9 million children in the United States facing hunger is key to finding a solution. 

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"It's such a vital consistent need," explained Meester, who shares two kids with husband of nine years Adam Brody. "And there's so much pleasure in food beyond the nutrition: It's enjoying the tastes and trading with somebody during lunch and knowing as a kid, and then also as a parent, that the lunchbox is going to be full or that there's going to be food on the table that we can all sit around and say we're grateful for."

Todd Williamson/Getty Images

Which is precisely what she and Brody do before they dig into dinner every night in their Los Angeles-area home. 

As scions of teen drama royalty, thanks to The O.C. and Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz's deft matchmaking skills, Meester's kids are unlikely to experience the same hardships she faced. 

"We live in such a bubble," admitted Meester, noting she wants 8-year-old daughter Arlo, in particular, to understand her privilege. "And we obviously are really happy and grateful to give her everything that we never had growing up. But we also want her to understand that not everyone grows up like that." 

So while the actress is eager for Arlo to tag along to an upcoming volunteer opportunity with Feeding America, the hunger relief nonprofit she's worked with for more than six years, "I think it's just all about setting an example," Meester explained. "When we sit around the table, we always talk about what we're grateful for and what the best part of our day was and just give thanks to our food." 

Arlo also understands that before Mom was booking major network TV and film gigs, money was tight, Meester continued. "And so she knows sort of in a child-friendly way, that there are different ways that people are growing up. So I hope that she can take that in, but mostly just to be grateful for everything that she has."

Including the new school year that's just around the corner. 

"It's always bittersweet, because the summer to me, it feels like it just started and then it's over," noted Meester. "But then at the same time, it's good, because the kids are truly happier when they're in school and they're with their friends. My daughter likes going to school, I don't know if that'll last forever. But she loves reading and she loves her teacher."

Michael Simon/GoGo squeeZ

And with both Arlo and her 3-year-old brother celebrating late summer birthdays, they'll both head off to their classrooms with new clothes, new backpacks and the bento boxes Meester and Brody use because, she joked, "kids don't like food to touch for whatever reason."

To make mornings slightly more manageable, the How I Met Your Father star makes it a point to pack 'em up the night before with any pantry items like the GoGo squeeZ pouches that her kids suck down because they're "nutritious, delicious and something that the kids actually want," Meester said.

Not to mention they're chock full of good feels, with the brand donating supplies for lunch boxes at L.A.'s North Valley Caring Services Food Pantry and enough funds for Feeding America to provide up to 250,000 meals. Explained Meester, "You can go on my Instagram page and you can comment a fruit or veggie and each comment donates 10 meals."

Feeding America

Though, as much as Meester likes returning to her school year rituals—"It's a time where you start thinking about a fresh start"—she admits it can be tough. "I mean, it's always bittersweet that the kids are getting bigger," she said. "It's good, but it's also sad a little." 

Three words, eight letters, safe to say Meester says them a lot. 

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