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Cafeteria ban a ‘short-sighted and backward idea’

Supervisors have proposed legislation to ban cafeterias in businesses. I urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this short-sighted proposal, which screams of distraction. In a city where food prices are prohibitively expensive, even for many tech workers, and where streets are neither safe nor clean enough to which to walk to lunch, it’s unfathomable that our Board of Supervisors would be prioritizing such a backward measure.

The idea is for workers to “have to go out and each lunch with the rest of us,” according to Supervisor Peskin. What the Supervisor likely doesn’t realize is that workers choose to take a short lunch or eat at our desks or with our colleagues for a variety of reasons, none of which has much to do with whether there is a cafeteria in our building. Few people have time in the middle of the day to walk somewhere, wait in line, eat, then walk back to work. We can argue that this culture of breakless work is bad, but that is irrelevant. And even fewer people—even in the tech industry—have the ability to spend $15-$25 on lunch as restaurant prices are skyrocketing with rising commercial rents. The premise of this idea is flawed as well, as it continues to demonize tech workers and perpetuate an “us versus them” mentality whereby if only “the techies” would come eat lunch with “us,” we would all be fine.

Further, workplace cafeterias employee hundreds of workers itself, sometimes with good, union jobs. These jobs can be a lifeline for people struggling to stay in San Francisco.

I urge the Board to focus on supplying more housing and making the city more affordable for people and businesses. Perhaps then, the cost of lunch wouldn’t be such a burden for the average worker. I urge the Board to focus on cleaning up our streets. Perhaps then, workers would have an appetite to eat rather than inhaling the smell of urine for several blocks. I urge the Board to focus on making our streets safe. Perhaps then, workers would feel better about leaving their workplace for lunch without having to actively dodge tent camps, human feces, and needles. The idea of limiting where employees can eat makes as much sense as a company dictating what kind of food its employees can eat or be reimbursed for while traveling for work (I’m talking to you, WeWork).

To be sure, the intentions of this legislation are good. No one wants to see our city’s small businesses struggling. But this is a short-sighted and backward idea at a time when we should truly be forward-thinking. We must focus on the root of the reasons why restaurants may be losing business, which is the fact that the average person can no longer afford to live or work in San Francisco, nevertheless eat in San Francisco.

If the Supervisors are so intent on dictating what should or should not be in businesses, perhaps they can think about things that will actually impact the lives of San Franciscans, such as child care facilities or preschools. In the meantime, let’s refocus and make our city livable for all again.

Dr. Amy Bacharach is a former Trustee of City College of San Francisco and is the founder of Parenting In Politics. She is a mom to two tiny humans and most often brings her own lunch to eat at her desk at work.

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