Taste of Instacart
Sobremesa with Sazón: Honoring Latinx Heritage Month
The word ‘sobremesa’ literally translates to “over the table,” but its meaning in Latinx culture stretches far beyond just what’s on the table. It refers to the cultural tradition of relaxing and connecting at the dining table after a long meal. “For me, food is so central to my Latinx heritage because it’s what we gather over—it brings people together,” says Natalia Montalvo, our Director of Shopper Engagement and Policy Communications. It’s over long family meals that she learned about her parents’ Cuban history, through tales from Spain, centuries before they arrived in Cuba, and memories from their time growing up on the island.
For Rodrigo Cordeiro, an Operations Project Manager on our team, family always comes first—and that almost always involves food. “I’m an immigrant from Brazil, so staying in touch with our culture is a big part of my life,” he says. “Every Sunday, my family gathers for a Sunday lunch—and then we linger, in a true ‘sobremesa.’”
Natalia and Rodrigo are the co-leads of Sazón, Instacart’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) for Latinx employees and their advocates. In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, they put together a full line-up of virtual programming and leveraged the Instacart product to celebrate, honor, and recognize the contributions and history of the Latinx community.
Why seasoning—and diversity—make Instacart a better company
“In Cuban cuisine, sazón—the seasoning—is the foundation of every dish and shapes the flavors of all the food in our culture,” Natalia explains. “The same is true about the diversity of our community at Instacart—it is the seasoning of our company and makes it such a rich place to work and come together.”
For Natalia and Rodrigo, that’s exactly why it matters to create a space to celebrate Latinx culture and recognize what their community brings to the table. Sazón, as an ERG, aims to encourage peers who come from a host of backgrounds to bring all of their special ingredients to work and connect with other cultures, too.
During Latinx Heritage Month, the group shined a light on the fact that there’s still an underrepresentation of Latinx in the tech industry and, at the same time, highlighted the diversity that exists at Instacart. “We’re really proud that over 20 Latinx countries are represented across the company,” Rodrigo says. “Latinx Heritage Month is a special time to pause, acknowledge, and celebrate their nationalities, heritages, and culture.”
What’s more, at Instacart, we believe that our diversity makes us a better company for everyone who uses our product. “Our customers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and want to know that they’re represented while we develop products and services for them,” Rodrigo explains. “And, because the Latinx community is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S., diversity is critical to our bottom line.”
Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month
As co-leads of the Sazón ERG, Natalia and Rodrigo had several goals for the month. They hoped to foster a sense of community by creating a space of celebration for Latinx employees at Instacart, as well as capture allies and other employees so they could learn and celebrate, too.
They wanted to enable members to get involved with the actual planning of events, because, well—it takes a village to pull off a lot of programming. So they recruited members of the ERG to plan and execute various tasks during the month.
Finally, they hoped to extend their impact beyond Instacart employees. They wanted part of the month’s programming to affect the broader community and even Instacart customers.
To achieve their goals, they grounded themselves in a central theme, ‘sobremesa,’ which they decided upon when considering how interconnected food and culture are in the Latinx community. “Especially coming out of the pandemic, people are searching for that sense of belonging—and food can provide an avenue for it,” says Natalia.
And to inform their events, the group focused on three primary topics:
- Food: It’s what brings us together and it’s part of our mission at Instacart.
- Community: Empowering our community members to participate and create a sense of connectedness, as well as giving back to the broader community in a meaningful way.
- Education: Both within the Latinx community and beyond at Instacart, they aimed to educate people on topics that matter to the community and create safe spaces for open conversations.
The fruits of their labor
The group produced several highly-attended events and hit their goal of extending their impact beyond Instacart employees with an exciting app feature. Here’s a look at what they accomplished.
Sazón Recipes Featured in the Instacart App
In a first for any ERG at Instacart, Sazón launched a featured Latinx recipes collection within the Instacart app, which included recipes sourced from Sazón members and celebrity chef Chris Valdez. But they didn’t stop at just sharing recipes—they looked at how to support the broader Latinx community, too. Because Latinos are disproportionately affected by hunger and food access, and are 2.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity compared to a white individual, Instacart will donate 10 meals to Feeding America, up to 250,000 meals, every time consumers shop any of the recipes from the Sazón Latinx Heritage Month Collection through October 15.
“This initiative bridges the gap between Instacart employees and customers, highlights our culture externally, and supports Hunger Awareness Month, too,” explains Rodrigo. The group gathered recipes from Sazón members and partnered with Chris Valdez to put together a list of dishes to inspire and celebrate Instacart customers to taste Latinx culture this month. “We’ve never done anything like this before, and it was a challenging idea to pull off, but there was so much excitement around launching recipes in the app and making an impact in the community that we teamed up and made it happen,” says Natalia.
“Cooking From Scratch” Financial Literacy Event
When the Instacart’s broader ERG communities asked for guidance around budgeting, planning for retirement and the future, the Sazón partnered with the Diversity, Equity & Belonging team, alongside our Benefits team to create a safe space for learning and conversation around the topic of financial literacy. Instacart partnered with an expert from Sequoia Capital, to allow members of all Instacart ERGs together to learn and ask questions in a finance class.
“The Q&A portion of the event wasn’t recorded because we wanted people to feel comfortable asking their questions,” Rodrigo says. “Company-wide sessions can sometimes feel overwhelming and members of our community might feel a step behind because of their English skills or what they learned growing up—we wanted everyone to feel comfortable learning and asking questions.”
Alza Tu Bandera—Raise Your Flag
To highlight the presence of many countries and cultures, and give them a moment to shine, Sazón encouraged all members of the Latinx community at Instacart to add their national flag(s) to their Slack profiles and put their pronouns in their native language.
“A lot of people didn’t know I was from Brazil, so it’s been cool to highlight that and spark conversations for employees across the company and encourage them to share their heritage with each other,” says Rodrigo.
The team also came up with a playlist, which was featured at the financial literacy event and will open the company’s All Hands session this month. They offered several fitness classes, too, for Sazón members and company allies to get together and celebrate Latinx Heritage Month while sweating it out. Finally, they created sobremesa-inspired swag—a Sazón branded apron—to send to all members of the ERG. “We hope the apron will encourage everyone on their personal journey in cooking and remind them of the special flavor they bring to the company,” says Rodrigo.
The value of community, especially now
“The pandemic has put things into perspective and truly made us cherish moments with our families and friends when we can let our shoulders down and just be together,” says Natalia. Wrapping up the month, she, Rodrigo, and the whole Sazón community feel deep gratitude for being able to share their culture. In fact, they feel that collecting recipes and working with the community on the month’s initiatives shows that we can still share these traditions and our heritage, even if we’re not physically together.
For example, Rodrigo’s recipe, which is featured in the app, came from his mom. “Recipes can still be shared and enjoyed, even in a world where the meals might have to be eaten separately,” he says. “This whole process brought me closer to my mom and I hope the community feels that when they enjoy her recipe. It’s important for us to find ways to feel connected, especially at a time like now—we feel we achieved that this month for our members and broader community.”
Sazón’s mission is to power the recruitment and hiring of Latinx at Instacart and create an environment where their professional development is supported and they can thrive. If you’re interested in joining us, check out opportunities on our team.
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