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How this Blog on Food Choices Led to an Office “Cheese Party”

by Tera Clausen, SLCgreen intern

Holiday season is upon us once again.

Which means it’s time to come together with family and friends to celebrate– and what holiday celebration would be complete without delicious feasts and yummy treats?

At this time of plentiful feasting, we thought it’d be a great time to talk about food.

One of my recent tasks here at SLCgreen was to compile information for a new webpage, called Dining with Discretion.  This section is a bit different than SLCgreen’s other pages, in that it discusses the big picture way our food choices have an environmental impact.

I was surprised by some of what I found:

  • Did you know that if every American chose to not eat meat and cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road?
  • Are you aware that rain forests are being cut at the rate of 36 football fields per minute each year to make room for cattle grazing and farming?

These are sobering and overwhelming statistics.  But our goal is to empower you with information necessary to make a difference– whether that’s through a few small changes or even bigger ones.

That’s what “Dining with Discretion” means.

Discretion is the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation, so to Dine with Discretion means to make food choices with the understanding of how the food system affects our world.

Talking about Food Choices at the Office

As I discussed webpage content with my supervisor, one of my co-workers in our neighboring division overheard the idea of giving up meat and cheese one day a week. She joined the conversation and was adamant that she would never give up meat or cheese. The longer we discussed food choices, the more of our fellow SLC Corp co-workers began joining in on the conversation. When I left work that day I had no idea that this conversation would continue for several days. While many people had varying opinions, one thing became very clear – food can be a divisive topic.   

However, the question remains: Do people actually want to make these choices, especially when it comes to animal products?

I decided to do a little “market research” by asking around the Public Services office whether people would be willing to alter their behaviors to  Dine with Discretion.

I started with my co-worker who initiated the conversation, Stephanie Gliot:

“When I first heard about Dining with Discretion I thought the apocalypse was upon us. I love cheese and the thought of not having it for one meal a week frightened me. But in actuality when I truly thought about it, I was already dining with discretion. I had a salad just yesterday for lunch with no meat and no cheese…bottom line, we are already doing these things, this is just putting focus on reality.”

Sometimes Dining with Discretion is about the choices that are available to us, said Corey Rushton:

“I’m someone who would like to [eat more fruit and vegetables], but the choices you have sometimes make it hard to eat less meat. I have a garden, but in the winter my options are more limited.”

Shannon Williams, who runs SLC Corp’s employee engagement platform for sustainability, has been thinking reflecting on these issues for some time:

“In the United States, we are given the freedom to choose our dietary preferences. What I find so inspiring about the freedom of food choice is the power to make a statement that incorporates personal values and beliefs simply when paying for food. My personal set of values and beliefs are rooted in environmental sustainability, kindness, and minimalism. Therefore, I vote with my dollar in support of sustainable agriculture and organic, local farming, without contributing to the meat industry.”

Knowledge empowers people to make more conscious decisions.

Beyond knowledge, I think it is important that we begin to have productive conversations with others about food. I’m sure that for every meat eater who has felt guilt-tripped by a vegan to give up animal products, there is a vegan who is tired of hearing that bacon is a justification for everything. The best thing to do is be informative and allow people to make their choices.

Our ongoing conversation in the office eventually led to an office cheese party. This may seem like a backwards step for Dining with Discretion, but I would like to consider it as a step forward. I am a vegetarian and I decided to use this opportunity as a way to connect with people– over food– who may be skeptical about dairy-free cheeses. My contribution to the office party was vegan nacho cheese and a vegan thyme cranberry cheeseball.

This gave my co-workers the opportunity to taste dairy-free cheese.  They were all pleasantly surprised how much they enjoyed it, and many of them asked for the recipes I used.

So, even if it was through a “cheese party,” if  I have encouraged anyone to be just a little more open to animal-free products, I consider that a win.

Animal products have a significant impact on climate change, but fruits and vegetables are not blameless. All food comes with a carbon footprint that we should be aware of so we can make informed choices.  It’s also not about being “perfect.”  Simply cutting back once a week can make a difference.

Now, with the holiday season in full swing, I would like to encourage each of you to also realize that we are surrounded by choice amid the onslaught of food.

Even if you don’t become a full-on vegan (don’t worry, I will not be coming after your Christmas ham!), there are other ways to Dine with Discretion:

  • You can opt to buy local and organic foods.
  • You can choose to make food from scratch and cut down on packaging waste.
  • Eat your leftovers before they go bad so you do not have to send food to the landfill.
  • Watch your portion sizes so you reduce your food waste (I’m sure your waistline will also thank you after the holidays are over).

If you are interested in finding out more about our food system, how animal products play a special role in our food system, or how you can take action, head over to our new webpage Dining with Discretion.

Happy holidays and may you dine with discretion– and delight!


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