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How SMEs can use food to enhance workplace culture diversity

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If the Euros 2020 taught us one thing, it’s that we can all come together if we have a common ground. The 26-strong England squad not only brought pride to the country as they reached the finals yesterday, but they also instilled a sense of belief and culture back into the country. And regardless of whether you agree with some of their stances across the board, they inspired everyone. Everyone of all cultures, religions, backgrounds, sexes, ages and more to be as one, as we all gained a mutual interest and understanding of one another’s joy – and pain. TV host, Cook, Author, and a female equality rights activist, Capri Cafaro talks through how you can instil that same culture within your workplace all with the simplicity of food.

Food creates common ground. We all need food to nourish ourselves. Food is usually the anchor of celebrations big and small, the waypoint to bring families together regularly and tells stories of cultures and traditions just by being on the table. When I was an elected official, I turned to food to build bridges in a divisive political climate. Everyone needs to eat, and most people see sharing food as a kind, disarming gesture. I would mark each bipartisan legislative victory by bringing in a homemade pie to share. This simple act helped build fellowship between elected officials and their staff from opposing parties.

I think food can be an effective team building and educational tool in any industry sector. Cornell University professor Kevin Kniffin recently conducted a study of firefighters who work and eat together to determine if there is a link between sharing meals and workplace productivity.  Kiffinn concluded that eating together increased productivity and collaboration amongst co-workers.  Workplace mealtime can also enhance corporate culture and morale in businesses big and small.  Taking a break with colleagues can also help stave off burn out. There are myriad benefits to breaking bread with those you work with, but to me, the most important is the opportunity mealtime creates to get to know the people around you.  As a matter of fact, Alice Julier, author of Eating Together  asserts that eating with individuals of different races, genders and backgrounds can shift perspectives and beliefs as people educate one another around the table.

If you are thinking about enhancing mealtime in your workplace, here are some ideas on how you can use food to build a culture of collaboration and mutual respect:

Hold An After Work Cooking Class

Many companies are turning to cooking classes as an off-the-clock activity to get to know one another. But, one doesn’t need to spend a lot of time or money to use food as a way to develop workplace cohesiveness or celebrate an organization’s diversity. 

Host A Multicultural Potluck Lunch

Something as simple as a potluck lunch where everyone in the office or department brings in a dish can get people talking.  Food is a window into someone’s cultural and family traditions. Choosing to share am heirloom recipe or a unique ethnic entrée can create the perfect opportunity to educate co-workers about your personal story and culture.

Collect Recipes For A Charity Cookbook

If you are a non-profit organization, consider putting together a charity cookbook by gathering recipes from your network and include a short story with each recipe to provide context.

Start Your Own Office Cooking Competition

Cooking competitions are not just for the television, they are also a fun way to encourage teamwork through some friendly competition.  Try a bake-off between team members or departments to spice up the next corporate retreat.

Create A Community Garden

Starting a workplace garden can encourage team building, creativity and healthy habits.  Gardens are also a great addition to a company wellness program.

 

When team members take the time to get to know one another, they develop mutual respect that can build a more effective and inclusive workplace environment.  So, the next time you are considering what to do to bring your team together, look no further than the kitchen.

 

Keep up to date with Capri Cafaro over on Instagram – @capriscafaro

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