By Gideon Strauss

I have a lunch food problem.

Not my usual lunch. But still ...

Not my usual lunch. But still …

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I made and packed myself a brown bag lunch nearly every day. On days that I had my act particularly together, I had my lunch made and packed the evening before. And for a stretch, when my daughters still lived at home and went to school, my lunch was part of the household food preparation.

Not only did I take healthy, low-cost meals to work most days, I also enjoyed them in a workplace kitchen with colleagues during a common lunchtime. I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed every lunchtime conversation, but these lunches certainly contributed to a companionable familiarity that benefited our collaboration as a work community serving a common cause.

Recently, in particular since (a) moving house and (b) moving offices, the days on which I run out to buy lunch from a fast food vendor outnumber the days on which I pack a lunch at home, and the days on which I eat lunch at my desk or in a meeting far outnumber the days on which I enjoy my lunch away from my desk or outside of a meeting.

I am not alone in these practices: more lunches eaten at work are bought from fast food vendors than sourced in any other way, and 65% of working Americans eat lunch at their desk or don’t take a break to eat lunch at all. (And these are not the only problems with how we eat.)

I am not arguing that every workday lunch needs to be pre-prepared at home, or eaten in the company of work colleagues. Some cities have an array of opportunities for imaginative lunch purchases (as documented, for example, in Midtown Lunch and Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide) that can turn the quest for a great fast food vendor into a worthy adventure. And some days a few quiet moments by myself around noon can do wonders for the afternoon productivity of this introvert-with-an-extrovert’s-job-description. But I do think that I can eat lunch more affordably, more healthily, and more convivially, more often. And so, it seems, can most of us.

With this confession I am asking for your help and advice. What do you eat for lunch at work? What lunch foods have you found that are both affordable and healthy? Have you found effective ways to build the pre-preparation of lunch into your home routines? What resources (books — especially cookbooks, websites, articles, videos, or whatever) do you know of that would be helpful to me and others like me who want to improve our workday lunch content and routines? I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to be more imaginative about lunch at work.

Gideon Strauss is the executive director at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and also editor of Fieldnotes Magazine.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.


6 Responses to My lunch food problem, and ours.

  1. CNanton says:

    I bring vegetables, cheese, crackers and fruit, and join my colleagues for some chat – no work conversations allowed. Occasionally, we bring pot luck – whatever’s in our fridge that needs to be eaten – those are some interesting meals. Bento boxes work for me too, and I often make a big pot of soup on Sunday, which becomes lunch for the rest of the week. I prep lunch when I;m putting leftovers away after dinner the night before. And although I find myself at my desk more often than not, I appreciate the times when I can slip away, outside, with my lunch and a book.

  2. TerryW says:

    I’ve been brown-bagging it for all of my 34-year working career. Lunch includes a sandwich (a single slice of whole grain bread, sliced turkey or other meat, cheese, and lettuce – soon to come from my garden or CSA share), carrots, fruit, cookies (often home baked), and since I love chips but those aren’t typically very healthy, recently I usually pack a sandwich bag of popcorn that I pop at home on Sunday and make enough for the entire week, along with fruit juice to drink; most of which is packed in a reusable container, bag, and thermos. It takes less that 5 minutes to put it all together each morning and probably costs no more than $2. A book I’ve just acquired and looking forward to read is “Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food” by Rachel Marie Stone.

  3. Gideon Strauss says:

    Thank you, Terry and Catherine! Great examples! This week I’ve been “juicing” veggies and spices into something between a dip and a cold soup … but I’m still eating at my desk. :-


    • L J Sam Helgerson says:

      Care to share any of your favourite spice blends? I’d like to try the veggie soup/dip idea, but the veggies need a little kick. Thanks.

  4. Scott Tanksley says:

    Hey Gideon, I’ve got a little idea for your lunches! Meaning, community, impact… all while on that necessary break to refuel. Making more strides with work teams since Praxis. Let’s chat.

  5. Gideon Strauss says:

    When next are you on Southern California, Scott?!