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In striving to maximize employee satisfaction, XYZ Retirement Center recently implemented a variety of wellness strategies, from yoga classes to nutritionist-devised meal plans for employee meals. As part of the meal planning, a steering committee was assembled from across all levels of staff: Nurses, Aides, Administrators of various sorts, Caretakers, and even Directors were recruited to contribute and ensure that the choices made reflected the diversity of our team at all levels. Not only was there a diversity of roles, but there was also diversity in terms of gender expression, economic class, cultural background, religion/philosophy, and age. There were 10 of us on the team, and we were each responsible for working together and relaying input from our respective spheres within the workplace.

This diversity brought a wealth of important insights, and also some challenges. For example, something as simple as a lunch menu became immensely complicated as we learned about various dietary restrictions, both health-based (allergies) and ethics-based (vegetarian and vegan, religious-based restrictions). Some were unable to see why accommodating all diets in the menu was advisable, suggesting that those with such specific restrictions should just bring food from home. However, other voices were able to encourage additional reflection on why this isn’t the most equitable approach; as nearly 40% of those on the steering committee had dietary restrictions that complimented each other, flipping the proverbial script and suggesting that the others bring their food from home quickly demonstrated why this wasn’t a fair request. Ultimately, a creative solution – a series of separate components with different protein options, cooked individually, served from individual hotplates into bento-style boxes – with a few agreed-upon concessions (e.g., no nuts, ever) was ultimately able to keep everyone safe and maintain the values and preferences of the staff. Each of us offered our own ideas for possible meals, personal favorites and dishes from our various cultural backgrounds, and we came together with the staff nutritionist to work out the details to maximize nutrition and flavor while minimizing cost.

As a result of this work together in overcoming such challenges while also valuing the important contribution we could make, our meals are cost-effective, healthy, and satisfying for everyone who works there, from those who sweep the floors to those who run the organization. It makes such a big difference in morale to come together and implement such a big change in the quality of our meals in the workplace. We no longer had to eat basic cafeteria fare (or spend personal time organizing our own workplace meal each day - something which otherwise cut into our free time to spend with our families), and the menus all have our individual stamps on them, highlighting a diversity of both people and cuisines.

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