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The pandemic has transformed how we think about lunch

After a long year of navigating the digital office cubicle, America’s workforce is on its way back to reclaim physical desks and long-forgotten water coolers. The anticipation to get back to our daily routines is palpable, but the reality is that our new “normal” is going to be anything but routine. And the most evident change to our daily lives will arguably be around food—a renaissance of how, where, and what we eat during the workday.

To get a better picture of what the new lunch will look like and help us re-adjust to meal times outside the home, we first have to understand the evolution of the lunch break over the last decade and hone in on how the pandemic altered our eating habits over the past year.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE LUNCH BREAK

In 2012, the New York Library hosted an exhibition on the history and importance of lunch time in our culture, tracing the early definition of “as much food as one’s hand can hold” to what became known as the “power lunch” in the late 1970s. Yet while the characteristics of lunch were redefined by changing industry and geography alike, lunch has always been closely tied to the workday.

In the last decade, startup culture has made a similar mark on the lunch break: the rise of the communal kitchen as an office watering hole with snacks, microwaves and refrigerators. Beyond the functional purpose, the office kitchen as a workplace perk is often seen as a hallmark of progressive culture.

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