The Food Feud


From finicky feasters to those who eschew the common edibles, what should we serve our residents at events?

Kim Lee with Community Northwest is no stranger to being a good hostess. Her nonprofit company specializes in building community within apartment complexes by focusing on resident events and helping to build positive relationships. Kim’s philosophy: “If you feed them, they will come. If you feed them well, they will come again. If you feed them well and introduce them to a friend, they will keep coming.” And anyone who’s no stranger to resident events would probably agree with this statement.

But things have gotten complicated when it comes to Americans and their food. Today’s American diet is likely restricted in some way or another, either by choice or medical necessity. For example, check out these stats:

• More than 2 million people in the US (1 in 133) suffer from Celiac disease, a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food, meaning that they cannot tolerate gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley.*

• 70 percent of Americans want to lose weight,** and those who do successfully take off the pounds are likely to regain almost all of it within five years ***

• 25.8 million children and adults in the US – 8.3% of the population-have diabetes, and it is estimated that 79 million people are in a pre-diabetic condition in the US currently.

• 13% of Americans identify as vegetarian or vegan. ****

Those stats were just what came up in a five minute web search. Needless to say, when we’re planning a menu for a resident event, we aren’t looking for something that everyone is guaranteed to like – that would be impossible – but for something with a mass appeal. Keeping in mind the number of Americans with monitored diets, this can seem like a huge task, but, while there will be some product adjustments, it’s going to be more of a behavioral change for your teams rather than a change in the shopping list.

Here are some tips:

• Keep it simple – in what you’re offering to eat as well as the ingredients that the food you’re serving is made from. For many folks, the simpler the food, the easier it is on their systems.

• If you don’t know if something you’re serving has wheat, gluten, peppers, etc. in it, don’t guess. Be honest and say you’re not sure and either check the wrapper or check the internet.

• Seriously consider providing a vegetarian or vegan alternative.

• Make the menu known before the event. Don’t wait until your residents arrive to an event and realize there is nothing offered they can eat. Often times, people with severe dietary restrictions will bring something of their own to munch on if they know there won’t be anything served that they can eat.

• Don’t underestimate the value of the community potluck! If your company or property is willing to pay for that main course, it’s perfectly reasonable to invite your resident guests to bring a side dish or dessert to share. Not only does this help your food budget, but it also ensures that there will be something at the party that everyone can eat comfortably.

*Statistic from the NDDIC –
** Statistic from
***Statistic from the National Institutes of Health
****Statistics from the American Diabetes Association