The updates come fast and furious. Just days ago, it seemed like COVID-19 was someone else’s problem. Now, it is affecting all of us. My work has come to a screeching halt – conferences, workshops and talks have all been canceled. My children are now home indefinitely with remote learning starting on Monday.

Amid the chaos, the most important thing we can do (beside washing our hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds) is social distancing. That means absolutely no large gatherings, but also staying away from other people in general.

As office buildings shut down, teams work from home, meetings and events go virtual and everything else is disrupted, we need to maintain some semblance of sanity and humanity.

Already, technology has caused great chasms between us. Our society is completely plugged in but people are totally disconnected from one another. Chronic loneliness is literally killing us and now we are sequestered in our homes.

So, how do we connect when we literally cannot spend time together in person?

Enter the virtual mealtime.

I have been advocating communal meals for years – whether with family, co-workers, friends or communities. Sharing a meal is an opportunity to release tension, teach and learn, reflect, relax, and create personal connections. Although we can’t sit down at the same table, we can still manage to share a meal and get some of the same benefits and keep us from going crazy or burning out.

During these exceptional times of uncertainty, the best way to stay connected is via the virtual meal. You can choose which meal works best for you. Shabbat dinner or Sunday Supper with family. A lunch and learn or even be a coffee and cake meeting. Food is a wonderful vehicle for building bridges and relationships. Give it a try! And please stay healthy and safe.

How to host a successful virtual meal:

  • Decide on the menu ahead of time. Whether you purchase the food or cook, sharing the same food is a great way to connect. You can share recipes, share techniques, talk about the best places from which to order, and connect over how the meal tastes. Another option is for the meal host to send all attendees the same meal (use a service like Postmates, Door Dash or Seamless). Want to make it interactive? Have everyone cook together! You can either choose a recipe or order a meal kit (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot have great options).
  • Make sure to clarify the time zone. Pick a time that works for all parties to have a meal OR make sure everyone is aware of the actual time of the meal.
  • Video-conference the meal. There are plenty of tools and apps that will allow you to share a meal “face to face” virtually (try FaceTime, Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts). Just make sure everyone tests the video conferencing tool before the meal. It’s no fun dealing with glitches while your food gets cold.