American Workers' Lunch-Making Habit Is Dying: Who's to Blame?

American Workers' Lunch-Making Habit Is Dying: Who's to Blame?
Cover Image Source: unsplash | Photo by Alfred Rowe

Bringing food from home could save Americans a lot of money, especially amid rising costs and inflation. However, psychologists are seeing an opposite trend where people prefer to eat out instead of prepping their own meals. While there may be a lot of contributing factors to the death of packed lunches, the Covid pandemic is seemingly the trigger of all.

Image Source: unsplash | Photo by Cathryn Lavery
Image Source: unsplash | Photo by Cathryn Lavery

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A New York Post report suggests that the practice of bringing lunch to work has seemingly seen a decline in the recent past. While the number hasn’t been measured the report says it could be much lower than the pre-pandemic levels. Furthermore, psychologists in a TIME report mentioned that buying lunches has become more common despite inflation.

“Meal-planning feels like a thing of the past,” social worker Lynn Zakeri told Time, saying that the pandemic and hybrid office schedules may have disturbed old routines of people.

Lack of Habit Formation

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Before the pandemic, people worked full-time outside the home for most of their lives. They fell into the habit of adhering to the same evening and morning routine all week, which promotes habit development, according to Jolie Silva, a Long Island, N.Y.-based clinical psychologist.

This made behaviors like picking out clothes in advance and prepping meals and lunch embedded into muscle memory. Then came the pandemic which forced a new normal and shattered all the old hard-formed habits. People were attending meetings from the kitchen and prepping new viral gourmet meal trends as they couldn’t go outside.

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As restrictions eased up, people started following a hybrid schedule. This also deters habit formation, Silva explained in the Time report.

Representative Image | unsplash | Photo by Maxime
Representative Image | unsplash | Photo by Maxime

Stress

Lynn Zakeri a licensed clinical social worker, explained that nowadays people are tired, anxious, and stressed for several reasons. In such a climate, prepping lunches has become one more addition to the too-long to-do lists of people. Thus, they are overlooking it even if they have to pay more.

Furthermore, since the pandemic, mental health has become an important consideration for many. Since food is a major mood uplifter, people have shifted to a more impulsive approach to meals that centers around mood, Zakeri said.

Representative Image | unsplash | Photo by Tim Gouw
Representative Image | unsplash | Photo by Tim Gouw

Social Interaction

Since the pandemic also deprived people of social interaction, workers are grabbing any opportunity to spend time outside with people and their loved ones. Thus, buying lunch gives them an opportunity to leave their desks and take a walk outside, with their coworkers while taking a break to reset.

They are ready to spend money to do so even if it doesn’t seem justified in the current economic environment. “Changing your environment changes your mental landscape,” Zakeri told the Time explaining that it offers “low-stakes excitement.”

Representative Image | unsplash | Photo by Priscilla Du Preez
Representative Image | unsplash | Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

This is evident in the hybrid work model as people are stepping out of their homes for only two to three days a week. Going out for lunch with a colleague has also become a kind of a treat for commuting to the office. Furthermore, stepping out with co-workers to grab lunch has become a social event, psychologist Silva said.

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