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Diversity Training Specialists - Brian and Arthie Moore Diversity Training and Team-Building
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FREE STORIES

I am so grateful!

One of our delegates, at a Celebrating Humanity© session, came up to Arthie and said, "I am so grateful to you. This is the first time since I have worked for this company that I have eaten lunch whilst on a training course. I normally have to carry my own sandwiches or wait for supper. It is the first time that Halaal food has been prepared for me."

He had worked for the same major multi-national vehicle manufacturer for 17 years!

This was one of many such stories. Our country has many people with different eating requirements and preferences. Interestingly food is incredibly important to relationship-building in all cultures.

An old English proverb states that, "the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach." A saying in Setswana, "Moeng goroga re je ka wena," literally means "a visitor comes so that we may eat." To give greater meaning - "When we give we receive. We are happy when we have visitors because we prepare lot of different food for them and every member of our family gets to share the food with them."

And yet corporates often unwittingly neglect to cater for the dietary needs of their team members at functions, conferences or whilst on training. Their focus is more on building skills and not relationships.

One of our past clients decided to focus on budget and stopped all refreshments and meals for delegates on training. "We have more money for training now! They have been spoilt in the past. They will just have to bring their own food."

A delegate commented after the programme, "I loved the training but couldn’t hear anything after lunch time. How am I expected to concentrate on an empty stomach." Another angrily complained, "We are just things to them. Just work units."

We now ensure that delegates are fed and more importantly that everyone receives food that is in accordance with their religion, tradition, culture or dietary need. We no longer accept projects where budget is put before the basic needs of the delegates.

Often the challenge lies with the less aware conference venue or organisers. They eat most foods and they are often surprised that others don’t. Amongst those who do care and actively prepare or purchase food that suits their delegates are Pineside Hotel in Pinetown and Ushaka Marine. The latter goes to the extent of setting up separate Halaal and Kosher stations for guests.

Less aware organisers mix pork sandwiches with vegetarian and supply beef to Hindu devotees. They are joined by unaware delegates who mix the spoons from vegetarian meals with those from meat-based meals.

We recently observed a top-level business leader move from one snack tray to the next, biting into the snacks and returning the remains to the plates. Groups of diverse clients stood around watching her gape-mouthed and shocked.

She was totally unaware of the damage that she had done to her reputation.

At a wedding a ravenous man grabbed at the snacks and shoved them in his mouth. He used the same hand over and again. His spittle went from mouth to snacks. Thus, through two selfish individuals, entire plates of snacks were tainted and would not be eaten by a large percentage of those present.

At a large Gauteng resort a group of Eastern South Africans asked for roast chicken. Unfortunately the roast chicken shared a serving tray with a leg of pork. They asked if there were any untainted chickens. The chef excitedly brought a new chicken on a separate serving tray, and picked up the pork knife and began to cut into the chicken. Needless to say the new chicken was tainted and the guests could not eat it.

Often supplying the correct meal is a simple one. Halaal meals can be bought from a mosque. Kosher food from a synagogue. Kitchens can be separated into vegetarian and meat preparation areas. Separate utensils and pots are required for each area.

At a braai use different fires and specific dedicated grills. Know your people and their preferences.

As a very simple example if your team was Hindu, Western, African and Muslim have one braai for beef, another for chicken and lamb and another for vegetarian. Separate the alcohol drinking and serving area from the eating area. Check with your team if it is alright to buy Halaal meat and if so you have a braai that all people can attend. If not, more fires and grills will be needed!

If it seems like too much work, think about the extraordinary amount of work that members of your team do each day to ensure corporate success! It really is such a little matter to cater for your team or customers and you can always source a culturally aware caterer and leave the details up to them!

And whilst you are about it check your team members for the food they can or cannot eat for health reasons... You may just save a life!

Brian Moore© - 1 June 2004 - Durban - South Africa.

....feedback from our readers

Thank you for this piece! Although food is usually an important part of conferences here - you have shed a whole new light on it for me. This was excellent! We have a cable channel called Foodnetwork that is one of my favorites. Not only does it show different styles and venues of cooking, but also many shows are devoted to the history of food. I have never seen a show approach food the way you do here. What about contacting the network and sending them a script with this idea? Who knows, maybe they would run it and you'd get your message out to a larger and "starving" audience. America gets more diverse everyday, with people, food, and cultures. I think it would be a wonderful program. Thanks for sharing.

CT - Connecticut, USA

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Celebrating Humanity

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