April 23, 2012

Google Gets Mindful About Eating

More and more large companies, even those outside of the food industry, are taking it upon themselves to step up their sustainable and health-promoting practices in order to improve employee performance and health.  Google is a great example of this.

We’ve all heard about how Google has a Chief Sustainability Officer, and how their employees have access to free chef-prepared meals at their onsite cafeterias.  But did you know that Google has started planning “Growing Connections” organic gardens at many of their office sites?  These gardens not only give people a nice break or alternative to their desk, but they also grow fresh produce and herbs that are incorporated into the meals served right there on the premises.  Anything they can’t grow themselves they try to source from within 200 miles of each site, with an emphasis on buying from small organic and sustainable farms.  Items that can’t be sourced locally, such as coffee, are purchased through Fair Trade operations.

They’ve also revamped their cafeterias with some interesting new features.  For instance, smaller plates, in addition to the original larger ones, next to a sign that informs diners that people who use larger dishes are inclined to eat more.  They’ve also put Harvard’s color-coded food tags into place, with green tags next to healthy choices, yellow tags next to offerings that are only so-so, and red tags next to items like desserts, to urge diners to proceed in moderation.  Even simple switches such as putting their M&Ms in opaque rather than clear bowls, and putting bottled water instead of soda at eye level in coolers has decreased the caloric consumption of employees dramatically.

Google is also taking things a step farther, in highlighting the food – mind – body connection through their monthly “Mindful Eating” lunches.  Each month, employees at the various campuses have the option of participating in a communal vegan meal, taken in total silence, and, believe it or not, free of all electronic gadgets.  The goal is to quiet the mind, experience and appreciate food on a deeper level, and ultimately yield more present, enlightened and productive workers.  The results have been very positive, and they’ve found that their engineers are some of the biggest participants! 

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--Christie Wood

Bryce Clark
Culinary Assistant

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