[Episcopal News Service] The meal plan for General Convention – a revised plan involving boxed meals for the scaled-down July 8-11 convention in Baltimore, Maryland – has been canceled after criticism from deputies over cost and other factors. All attendees will now be free to make their own meal choices at local restaurants.
“I have heard from many of you that the meal plan would be too expensive, involve too much food and packaging waste and would not meet your dietary needs,” Jennings wrote to deputies and alternates. “Today, the presiding bishop and I decided not to move forward with the breakfast and boxed lunch plan for General Convention.”
The plan that the Presiding Officers’ General Convention Design Group had presented at its June 8 meeting, approved by Jennings and Curry, consisted of individual hotel breakfasts and boxed lunches for all official deputations. The plan would have cost $260 for four days of breakfast and lunch, or $32.50 per meal, and was required for all bishops and deputies, being billed directly to their dioceses. Attendees would then be on their own for dinner.
Curry and Jennings had said the boxed meal plan would “minimize indoor dining risk and potential COVID-19 spread by attendees to the community of Baltimore” and “mitigate the financial impact of the shortened schedule on hospitality workers.”
“We are deeply saddened about the impact the absence of visitors will have on the service industry in Baltimore,” Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, whose diocese is headquartered in the host city, had said. “Our goal is to encourage support for our workers while minimizing their exposure to the potential physical and financial burden of illness.”
The meal plan was met with criticism from deputies, bishops and other Episcopalians on social media immediately after its announcement on June 10 – mostly directed at the unusually high price for boxed meals and mostly in jest. Still, many expressed frustration that dioceses would be forced to pay for such an expensive plan when finances are tight.
The day the meal plan was announced, a General Convention boxed lunch apparently achieved sentience and began tweeting about its unappetizing contents and high price tag, taunting deputies with the fact that they had no other choice.
We honor the Trinity with our ingredients, particularly our sandwich meat.
Like the Trinity, our sandwich meat is incomprehensible to human understanding and undiminished by the passage of time to the ages of ages.
That’s the Box Lunch Promise. ™
— GC 80 Box Lunch (@gc80boxlunch) June 11, 2022
“I appreciate the candid — and at times quite humorous — feedback you provided,” Jennings wrote in her letter to deputies.
Within an hour of the announcement that the plan was canceled, celebrations spread across the Episcopal Twitter community.
My fellow Episcopalians, our long national boxed lunch nightmare is over. #gc80
— Scott Gunn 🇺🇦 (@scottagunn) June 15, 2022
That is, for all except the boxed lunch itself, which announced its own demise and changed its cover photo to a gravestone.
SAVE ME STEVE YOURE MY ONLY HOPE https://t.co/eEVkI8lHu4
— GC 80 Box Lunch (@gc80boxlunch) June 15, 2022
To address the stated goal of mitigating the impact on Baltimore’s hospitality and food service workers, Jennings said a mutual aid fund is being set up to assist both workers and deputies, with more details to come. In the meantime, she wrote, “I hope you will join me in making a contribution to the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund, an industry effort to support restaurant workers and owners; or to the UNITE HERE Education and Support Fund, a project of the UNITE HERE Local 7 union that represents hotel, gaming and food service workers throughout Maryland.”
“Thank you for your forbearance as we continue to finalize details for this most unusual General Convention,” Curry wrote in his letter to bishops. “We are grateful for those who are making plans behind the scenes for their willingness to try new options, to change course based on feedback, and to continue working with good cheer as our time in Baltimore grows nearer. May God grant us all patience and good humor in the coming weeks.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.