Equity starts with listening — and food

15 Jun Equity starts with listening — and food

Now more than ever, we need empathy, compassion and understanding. We need to listen to each other. We need connection.

One way we at Beyond Green Partners create connection is through food.

We do our best to make sure everyone we work with — and serve — is heard. From asking school cooks what they need to become more successful in their jobs, to getting the opinion of every single student who eats lunch — listening informs everything we do.

We are rigorous about completing tastes tests, surveys, and focus groups with thousands of students in order to gain their perspectives. In our view, everyone should know that they have a seat at the table and that their voice matters. This includes the most underrepresented voices — such as a single student who recently asked to eat Mexican food. Even though he was the only one asking for this type of food, we honored his request.

It is important that he knows his voice matters.

This also extends to how cooks and students interact with each other. For example, I’ve seen a third grader express that he hated a certain food, only to stop and reconsider after hearing how others in his group liked that same dish. You could see the wheels turning in his head as he considered perspectives different from his.

These may be elementary school kids talking about school lunch but imagine if that mindset trickled up into how we function on a societal level. What if each of us, as fully formed adults, had the ability to really question something we think is true? Without a doubt we’d live in a more compassionate world where differences are expected and embraced.

Our world is currently undergoing fundamental changes, and rightly so. If we continue to live disconnected lives from each other and from the world around us, we will continue to experience deep emotional pain, illness, economic disaster, and environmental crises.

So take a cue from that third grader and consider another’s perspective today, even if your knee-jerk reaction is to disagree. You may be surprised at what comes from it.

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