The Challenge

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How might we create healthy communities within and beyond the workplace? read the brief

Idea

Cook & Meet with Co-Workers

Great parties always end up in the kitchen. Cooking and eating are activities that bring people together. What if companies had a kitchen/meeting space, transforming lunch breaks into a team building activity while promoting a healthier diet?
Problem: Eating Habits for the Weekday Lunch

As a general rule, cooking at home is a healthier option than eating out, since it puts you in control over what goes in your meal. In addition, healthy lunch options for those eating out while at work are often limited or expensive, leading to unhealthy food choices during weekday lunch meals.

A few companies provide catered lunches for their employees, though this is often too costly for the company and leads to leftover and wasted food. 

So why don't more people bring in their own lunches for work? My hunch is that most people find that a time consuming and tedious task. Furthermore, it curtails the experience of taking a "break" for lunch, stepping out of the office environment and enjoying a meal with coworkers in a different setting.

Solution: Cook & Meet with Co-Workers

Companies could have kitchen/meeting spaces. The space specifications would vary according to the size and resources of the company and teams. For small companies, one space would be enough, and larger companies could have multiple spaces (by team or by office floor). 

Instead of eating out, employees would cook with and for each other. Each day, one person would be responsible for choosing a healthy menu and "running" the kitchen, assigning cooking tasks to other co-workers (chop the vegetables, dress the salad, etc). 

Costs for the ingredients could be shared amongst employees or paid by the company (if the company can afford). In both cases, sharing groceries and buying larger quantities is more cost-effective for all, and employees could use services such as Fresh Direct or Instacart to get ingredients delivered straight to the office.

This activity also functions as a team-building exercise - it can be a way to bring together employees from different areas of the company and develop communication outside the context of company hierarchy (image how cool if intern and CEO are chopping onions together!)

After cooking, everyone eats together and conversations could be directed to work matters (brainstorming a new idea, discussing an upcoming client presentation) or left open.

What are the benefits of your concept for the individual and the employer?
For the individual: - Health benefits: studies show that cooked meals are healthier on average than eat out meals. - Savings: eating out every day becomes expensive. Sharing the grocery bill with co-workers (thus benefiting from economy of scale) is cost-effective and minimized food waste. Savings for individual are even higher if employer can afford to pay for part or all of grocery bill. - Break & Bonding: opportunity to take a break and bond with co-workers in a casual setting For the employer: - Cooking together promotes team-building; opportunity for employees of different areas and levels of seniority to interact and bond - Time and Productivity: use lunch hours to discuss work matters - Healthier employees: you are what you eat. Employees that eat better feel better and work better.
What might the impact of your concept be and how might it be measured?
This concept has an impact in two fronts: individual health, derived from eating healthier during weekday lunch meals, and team performance, derived from the team building component of cooking together. 1/ Measurements for Individual Employee health - Record employee health/fitness level before start of program and after 3 month period. Suggested info to record and compare: weight, body fat percentage, cholesterol level. - Interview employees to find out how/if the program has affected their eating habits outside of work. Are they cooking more (healthy) meals at home? With what frequency? 2/ Measurements on Team Performance - Interview employees to find out if/how cooking activities have affected their interaction with other team members. Have they gotten to know their co-workers better? Has it changed for the better interaction between junior employees/senior employees? Has it positively affected the work environment? - Interview employer to find out if new ideas/solutions originated from the group lunch discussions.
How might your concept be designed to scale and spread to reach as many people as possible?
This concept can be put to practice in different forms and levels, so long as their is a space where people can prepare a healthy meal together, healthy ingredients to prepare a meal together, and the desire and incentives to prepare a healthy meal together. Ideas to scale and spread: - Web/mobile platform to share and record healthy recipes, organize grocery lists and cooking chores - Create incentives for employees to take this concept outside of work (cook at home date with girlfriend, cook and watch a football game with friends, cook with kids). Incentives could be extending grocery discounts for meals cooked at home. Perhaps a "grocery corporate account" that provides an economy of scale and at home grocery delivery? - Cross-corporate cook & meet: hold cook and meet meetings with people from different companies - Invite clients or suppliers to a cook & meet session if appropriate, as a way to "break the ice" and promote bonding and trust building.
How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?
Test in a small company of 10-20 employees, over a period of 3 months. Steps to be taken: Before Start of Test: - Build the kitchen/meeting space, which should be comfortable and inviting and have the appropriate appliances for cooking and serving. - Build simple web platform where employees can share healthy recipes and with a calendar for who is responsible for "running the kitchen" each day. - Record employee health/fitness stats (weight, body fat percentage, cholesterol). - Interview employee for overall eating habit assessment outside of work: how often do they cook at home versus eat out, do they eat healthy/unhealthy, etc) - Interview employee for work environment assessment (how well do they know and interact with co-workers, what is the overall work environment, etc) During Test: - Provide free groceries to facilitate test - Assess if employees are motivated to choose recipes, divide cooking tasks and cook as a group After Test: - Repeat assessments on employee health/fitness, overall eating habits outside of work, and overall work environment

Comments

Join the conversation and post a comment.

Victor Toh

January 21, 2013, 23:13PM
yes, nice idea, food definitely brings people together, sharing food and sharing cultures might be the best way to have lunch and bond!

Nathan Maton

January 10, 2013, 14:51PM
Awesome collaboration with Anson & Alicia. Feel free to incorporate some of their ideas into your own post here if you'd like.

Joana Koiller

January 11, 2013, 02:20AM
Hi Nathan,

Thanks! First time using Open Ideo, this is pretty fun!

Krista Lampe Licata

January 11, 2013, 16:01PM
Yeah, a number of us have ideas that involve creating food boding opportunities - both for health and building organizational culture. I think we could combine them into an epic program! :)

To make it more affordable, you could do a "big an ingredient" potluck program - participants each bring a part of the meal (one of my concepts was salad potlucks- bring a salad topping, put it all together and share). This eliminates the need for the ingredient delivery, but you do have to have employees motivated to see it happen every week.

Joana Koiller

January 11, 2013, 19:14PM
Hi Krista, salad potluck is a good idea. "how do we motivate employees to see this happen every week".

Whether it is salad potluck, cooking together or hiring chefs, if people aren't motivated to change eating habits, it wouldn't really work. I was also thinking about a comment Anson brought up (posted on a thread in his concept) -- how to involve the insurance company into the equation.

Perhaps instead of approaching possible solutions for people to eat healthy at work, we should think of what would make people want to eat healthy at work - then whether they do a salad potluck, cook together, hire a chef or all of the above, they can decide according to resources/time/etc.

I'm a big fan of thinking about behavior changes in a positive/negative reinforcement framework. Saving money is always a good reinforcer... and everyone needs to eat. Could the insurance company sponsor healthy groceries/food for the employees of the company, that they could use at work and at home?
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