The Orlando nightclub massacre was fresh in the hearts of those who attended Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress in June. MPI recognized horrible attack on innocents at the LGBT nightclub with a moment of silence, and a reading of the victims' names at a reception. As Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC, president and chief connecting officer,Thrive! Meetings & Events, says in this open letter on inclusion to the meetings industry, "It was appropriate and a beautiful act of solidarity among a close-knit group of international professionals."
It also prompted Tracy, who has long been an advocate for accommodating those with food allergies and other dietary restrictions at meetings, to issue a call to action for all who plan meetings to expand the definition of inclusion to those who have dietary restrictions. As she points out,
Just a few simple steps will save lives and avoid alienating your guests. Survey attendees ahead of time and plan the menus accordingly. Label foods appropriately and ensure the kitchen prepares food at separate, cross-contamination-free stations, as needed. Educate and train the service staff to understand these precautions and to be able to communicate intelligently about the food and attendee needs. There is more that can be done, but these simple precautions remove significant barriers to participation at your events and speak to your ultimate goal of inclusion.
Read the full text of her letter here.
It makes me think of a meeting I attended once where I saw a server first serve shrimp to someone with declared severe shellfish allergies (and a card saying so in front of her place setting), then take the plate off to a corner and knock the shrimp off into a trash can, and then try to serve the same plate to that person again. That could have been a life-threatening situation.
I know there's not much a planner can do in that case, but I'll add my pleas to Tracy's to, in addition to asking all participants about any special dietary needs, to please make sure all wait and kitchen staff understand just how important it is to comply fully. Someone's life could literally be in their hands.