Celebrating Culture in Foodservice

We all have a story. We all come from a long generational line originating from somewhere in the world that had their own cultural practices and beliefs. Some of us still practice those beliefs and customs and celebrate traditions such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Ramadan and so on. These traditions are a part of who we are as people. And who we are as people matters.


To put it into perspective, think about what makes you who you are. Where is your family from? What traditions do you celebrate? Now think about how those memories make you feel. What if you were unable to express this important part of your life – especially in your own home? That is why it is important to get to know your patients and help to facilitate celebrating their culture with them.


In foodservice, we have the opportunity to celebrate culture in a very special way – food. Food is a commonality shared across all cultures. Take the potato for instance. In America, we enjoy potatoes in the form of French fries (or fried any type of way quite frankly). In Italy, potatoes are often made into small dough dumplings called Gnocchi. And in other Eastern European countries, potatoes take the form of Latkes, also known as potato pancakes. This simple staple food can easily be made into a meaningful dish representing someone’s culture.


With that said, how do you glean information from your residents? What about non-English speaking residents? Language barriers may make it difficult to communicate with patients but there are ways to work around this issue such as:

  • Working with a cultural interpreter
  • Using translation cards or pictures of the menu items
  • Utilizing multi-lingual staff members
  • Gathering information from family members or loved ones


It is important to remember that the residents at the long-term care community you work at are in fact residents and you are working at their home. Why not get to know them? What is their favorite food? What time do they like to eat their meals? Are there any holidays or traditions that they like to celebrate? You may discover similarities and be able to share experiences. But most importantly, you will discover what makes that person who they are and have the opportunity to celebrate that person. Make their favorite meal. Set aside one day every month to celebrate someone’s food tradition. Make themed meals. Make time for your residents, they deserve it.


Written by Angela Higgins - Dietetic Intern

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