"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!"
Mix It Up at Lunch Day
Students of all ages know that the lunch hour is the most divided time of the school day. The premise of Mix It Up at Lunch Day is simple: take a different seat for school lunch. Mix It Up at Lunch believes that the work of breaking down barriers, diminishing prejudices, and reducing bias can all start over a sandwich. Eating with a different group, just for one day, helps students to see what an inclusive and welcoming community looks and feels like. The work of building that community starts with the basic act of changing seats at lunch.
Changing seats may seem simple but the reality is more complicated - and not just for children! The Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Project offers extensive planning and programming to help teachers, administrators, and parents' groups create an inclusive lunch day. Since 2002, Mix It Up For Lunch Day has been held on the last Tuesday of October, but you can make it happen any time...or more than once!
Why Should We Mix It Up?
As Christians, we know the power of sharing a meal. Jesus modeled sharing food with those who were different. We believe that when we share in the Lord's Supper, we participate in a community that is reconciled with one another and with God. When we share the Lord's Supper, we are a community who can change the world.
While the language of the Eucharist is not the language of most schools, the idea of sharing a table and thus changing how we see those at the table is totally accessible. Mix It Up at Lunch starts with a seat switch, but is supported by conversation starters, adult leadership that models and molds responsively, and time to reflect and follow-up afterwards. It is more than simply switching seat. But the action is all at the table.
Mix Day organizers' responses to a 2008 survey conducted by Quality Education Data, demonstrate the Mix It Up program's powerful results:
97% said students’ interactions were positive during Mix It Up at Lunch Day.
95% said Mix It Day prompted students to interact with people outside their normal social circles.
92% said Mix It Day increased awareness about social boundaries and divisions within school.
83% said the event helped students make new friends.
79% said as a result of the Day students have heightened sensitivity towards tolerance and social justice issues.
78% said as a result of the Day students seem more comfortable interacting with different kinds of people.
Most adults need a little prompting to move out of their comfort zones. Mix It Up at Lunch Day gives participants, children and adults alike, the tools necessary to feel okay with sitting with and getting to know our lunch mates.
How To Mix It Up
The Mix It Up website offers planning tips and checklists, from the most basic tips: "If you are planning for diversity, make sure your planning group is diverse," to complex ideas like flashmobs, or prizes. They recommend planning early, working with a planning team, and starting simply. As we know from working in formation, an experience is only as good as the follow-up examination of thoughts and feelings. The planning page offers several ways for leaders and participants to debrief, so that experiencing diversity (or not) for an hour is examined and built upon.
Mix It Up for Lunch Day can be used in schools from preschool through graduate school, in Sunday schools, and youth groups. Churches might offer to partner with a local school to plan and implement a Mix It Day. Or perhaps start with coffee hour!
Charlotte Hand Greeson shares her passion for formation as a manager, editor, and writer for Building Faith. She lives in California and thinks that adults should try Mix It Up for Lunch Day, too.
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