Food, and the act of eating, is cultural, spiritual, even political. Dining is symbolic and corporeal at the same, can not only sustain but heal, and is on a whole pretty unavoidable. It is also, for the most part, a social activity — or at least, many argue, it should be.

In ‘The Importance of Eating Together,’ Cody C. Delistraty enumerates the “quantifiably negative effects,” both physical and psychological, of passing up quality time with loved ones over a meal.

While his focus is on the American family, others are turning their attention to teams at work and the implications of eating together on productivity and growth. Chris Mueller, a Silicon Valley software engineer, shares his belief on Inc. that company culture begins in the kitchen, and that the simple ritual of sharing a meal fosters collaboration and learning.

Pulling yourself away from your desk smack in the middle of the grind can often feel like the last thing you should do, but Delistraty suggests looking at eating together “not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to de-stress” or “a chance to catch up with those whom we love.” Mueller quotes Trello co-founder Joel Spolsky, who takes the option out of communal meals entirely, making them non-negotiable because “it’s too important to be left to chance.”

Having witnessed the personal and professional relationships that have resulted from dozens of Members’ Lunches and Mixers, we can’t help but see the wisdom in that, and the emergence of peer-to-peer dining indicates that many more do, too. From Mealsharing and Pate Culture to Eat With Me and Shareyourmeal, startups are finding more and more ways of creatively gathering people around food to forge meaningful social experiences.

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