After the Presidential Election, we sat down and wrote a letter to all of you, asking for your ideas about how we could do a better job bringing people together around the table to share their commonalities and celebrate their differences.
You sent more than a thousand responses and we read every one (it took us a while). We want to start with the topics that bubbled up most frequently—the most prominent of which was a call for diversity.
Many of you said you’d like to see us cover a broader range of topics—specifically non-Western cuisines and food cultures, as well as budget-friendly recipes, meal-planning strategies, and home design tips.
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At our core, Food52 is about aspiration and inspiration. We strongly believe there is a need for both. In the weeks and months ahead, you’ll see more content that broadens the scope of how we aim to inspire our readers by embracing the true diversity of our culture. That means more articles and tips geared towards a range of budgets, more personal narratives, and more stories about the people who are the backbone of the food industry. To accomplish this, we’ll be calling on a larger and more varied pool of writers and experts with personal or professional experience in these topics. (Please drop us a line at [email protected] if this sounds like you!)
Some of you pointed out that our Team page doesn’t exactly scream diversity—which is very true in some ways, and in others not. We are proud to be a women-led company in a men’s world. Our team includes many more women than most tech startups (unlike others, we’re always working to add more men to our roster). But we are also a company that is 92% white, 60% 30 or younger, with enough liberal arts degrees between us to paper a decent-sized bathroom—pretty typical of food media at large.
Here’s how we became that team:
As a venture-backed media company, we have felt pressure to demonstrate consistent growth. We've worked hard not to compromise the quality of our content and editorial voice, and to cover topics beyond the expected and ubiquitous. It takes determination—not to mention business risk—to widen the sphere of accessible, familiar foods in this country beyond chocolate chip cookies and pizza. Few in food media have stepped up to the plate, Saveur and Lucky Peach being notable exceptions.
Early on, when we had very limited resources (and hardly any revenue), we relied on unpaid contributors. This led to a stable of writers and photographers who mostly came from more privileged backgrounds.
Since then we have taken on outside funding, but not on a grand scale, which means we’re still scrappy: We don't have an HR department, and the truth is that we have prioritized speed over reaching beyond our existing networks to target the largest pool of candidates.
But we won’t let ourselves off the hook. We’ve thought about these issues (and discussed them with each other) often. Now we want to talk more publicly about making diversity and inclusiveness—within our ranks and throughout what we cover—a priority. Yes, this is the right thing to do; equally important, we believe it's also good for our business.
Here are our goals for this year:
Increase minority representation on our team. As a first step, we’ve added new language to our Jobs page and we’re posting on job boards with more diverse audiences (we’re always looking for additional boards, so please share any recommendations on this front).
Bolster the diversity of topics we cover and writers/photographers we call upon to do so.
Host and facilitate more inclusive potlucks and community gatherings around food. Not long after we launched Food52, community members started getting together to cook from the site and socialize. We plan to get back to facilitating these gatherings, and to host more potlucks of our own.
Forge partnerships with brands and individuals who speak to new audiences and share our belief that embracing diversity is the way forward.
To the 1000+ of you who responded to our note: thank you. This whole process—making us think about what we think about when we think about food—is an inspiring example of the community in action. For that, we are truly grateful.
—Amanda & Merrill
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).