So, you’ve heard the term “food program” or “meal program” a few times recently.
You’ve heard that it’s an essential element of the employee experience that many tech companies like Airbnb, Etsy, and LinkedIn provide and you’re wondering if, maybe, your company should provide that too, whatever that means.
If you’ve been wondering that, and haven’t found any answer yet, you’re in the right place.
In this article, I’m going to give you a quick intro to what I believe a food program is, as well as debunk a few myths.
To get started, what exactly is a food program?
McKenzie Phelan, Global Food Strategy Manager at Airbnb, in the first episode of my brand-new show The Nourishing Workplace says that, in the simplest of terms, the purpose of a food program is to “feed employees.”
Airbnb’s food program goes much beyond that, but this simplification helps us get started.
My definition would be the following:
“An internal food program doesn’t only feed employees but encompasses all food service-related activities. It’s defined by a precise strategy and delivered by several stakeholders through collaboration and co-creation.”
What a food program is
So in simple words, a food program is:
- How you feed your employees throughout the day
- All the food service-related activities
- Part of your overarching company culture
- Defined by a precise strategy
- A strong element of your employer brand (or better, it can become one)
- A joint-collaboration and co-creation between several stakeholders (vendors, caterers, farmers, cooks, educators, etc.)
Because each company has its flavor of wellness, employee engagement, and company culture, no food program is ever alike.
What a food program is NOT
- Mediocre coffee and takeaway pizza for long evenings at work (we are not in uni anymore, are we?)
- The yearly Christmas party or the birthday celebration (the once-a-year cadence doesn’t have the same impact that an everyday ritual–albeit small–can have on morale and engagement)
- A way to get ALL your employees on a diet (a culinary program is more than that, and most of all should be accessible and inclusive to every employee)
- A way to jump on the health trend bandwagon (sure, the promotion of healthy lifestyles can become a motivating force, but please take every tip & trick with a grain of salt)
The list could go on, but I’m sure you get the point; it’s truly more than feeding your employees.
I hope that these simple definitions have helped you get more clarity about what a food program is and isn’t.
To continue your education, here are some additional resources:
- How a New Zealand Company Created an Outstanding Employee Breakfast Program With Little Resources, and You Can Too
- 19 Reasons Why You Need to Eat Well at Work
- Learn How a Workplace Eating Designer Can Transform Toxic Company Eating Cultures: Part One
- Want to Start a Food Revolution in Your Workplace? Use a Bottom-up Approach
Learn more by tuning in to The Nourishing Workplace
Learn How Airbnb built a unique food program with McKenzie Phelan, on Episode One of my brand-new podcast The Nourishing Workplace.
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