Food Allergies in the Workplace

With food allergies on the rise, more people are forced to avoid the food that is served at office social events. Food allergies are just one of those things where if it doesn’t directly affect you, you just don’t think about it.

Thursday snack at my office – grapes, dairy-free creamer, hummus, corn chips, carrots and chocolate covered pretzels – options for everyone!

As an office manager, a large part of my job is to plan social events, work with food vendors and book venues for off-site meetings/events. It is my responsibility to consider every aspect of my group’s experience. Whether you are allergic to nuts or you live the vegan lifestyle – your needs should be taken into consideration! My awareness of this stems from personal experience – I am also one of those people who struggles with food allergies. I know what it is like to not be able to partake in an event because there were no options for me! It is an unfortunately situation to deal with, but ultimately it is just a result of the lack of food allergy awareness in the community. Throughout my experience as an office manager, event planner and admin – I have developed some best practices and easy tips to handling food allergies or food restrictions in the workplace:

  1. Just Ask: Even as early as when you step into your new role, ask your employees if they have any food allergies or food restrictions. That way, you have it on-file from the start. Allergies are a very serious thing, but food restrictions can be just as serious. Many choose to avoid certain foods based on personal belief or religious practice. These should be just as much of a priority. 
  2. Think Ahead: When choosing a caterer or an event venue, take a hard look at the menu to see if it is even worth exploring. Talk to the event manager or catering manager to see how flexible they are with food preparation. Are they experienced with allergies? Do they even care? These are all valid questions when choosing who will be serving your employees food. Unfortunately, many restaurants do not make allergy awareness a part of their business model. 
  3. Go Above and Beyond: Your employees deserve it. It is really hard to understand the feeling or fear of being left out unless you have experienced it personally. On the day of the event {or even the day before}, reach out to the caterer and triple check that the allergy friendly options are on the food list. When you arrive at the venue, make sure you connect your affected employees with the caterer so that the caterer can address any needs they may have. Read the food labels before serving food to your employees at an in-office social event. Make sure if you serve snacks in the office that there are options for EVERYONE. 

Doing these three things can really go a long way. Your employees will feel included, prioritized and appreciated. These efforts do not go unnoticed! This is a great way to facilitate an all-inclusive culture by considering the needs of others and even opening up other people to different types of foods. It really is a win-win for both the company and the employees that are a part of the company family. And hey – you may receive a few #kudos along the way! 

What are some of the ways you facilitate an inclusive workplace? How do you handle food allergies when planning events for your employees?

Thanks for reading, it means so much to me!

-Your Food Allergy Guide

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