Barilla Wants to Share the Table, Even with Same-Sex Parents

April 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla, but opinions are my own.

In September of last year, the chairman of Barilla made the following statements in a radio interview:

“I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect
but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays
a fundamental role. … If [gays] don’t like it, they can go eat another brand.” 1

“I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who
is not able to choose.” 2

Like many others, I found Guido Barilla’s comments ignorant, insulting and infuriating. Our family is made up of two gay dads (one of whom is Italian) and an adopted son, all of us consumers of large amounts of pasta. I’m not sure there were any ways left to offend us. So like many others, our family made a conscious decision not to buy their products again.

While I’d heard of efforts on the part of Barilla to make amends, I paid them little mind. I was skeptical they could do anything to salvage a relationship with the LGBT community and our allies.

But then I was asked to take part in Barilla’s Share the Table campaign. And I was approached specifically because I’m a gay father. I learned they’d also enlisted other LGBT bloggers, including fellow parents Polly Pagenhart and Vikki Reich.

According to the materials I was given and my own research, Barilla has been making changes ever since the interview and subsequent boycott. They met with and received counsel from GLAAD; established a Diversity & Inclusion Board and appointed a Chief Diversity Officer; participated in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index; and as evidenced by this post, they want to partner with influencers in the LGBT community as part of Share the Table, to ensure families of all kinds are included.

We’ve all heard plenty of corporate apologies, yet this invitation resonated because it was made directly to me. And as I read more about Barilla’s inclusiveness in regards to the importance of family meal time, I was immediately reminded of our trip to Italy two years ago.

Barilla #ShareTheTable Italy family dinner

One of many long and wonderful meals around Nonna’s table

Papa’s parents moved back to their hometown in the Puglia region of Italy about 15 years ago. JJ had only met his Nonna once on a brief visit to the US, and he had never met Papa’s father. As Nonno had greatly reduced his long-distance traveling, we decided to make the transatlantic journey with our 2-1/2 year old in tow.

In addition to the stress of traveling with a toddler, I was also nervous about being on my in-laws’ home turf for almost two weeks. As you can imagine, Papa’s and my relationship hasn’t always been met with open arms in his traditional Italian Catholic family. Yet we continued to stay as involved as we could, making our presence (and presents) known on holidays, christenings, birthdays and first communions… and of course at mealtime. But I’d be lying if I said my old school Italian mother-in-law didn’t intimidate me more than a little. And Nonno and I had spoken maybe 10 words to each other in as many years.

However, the trip proved to be truly transformative for us all. JJ got lots of Nonna time and finally got to meet his Nonno (as well as 30+ other relatives who live in the area); Papa reconnected with his extended family, many of whom he hadn’t seen since he was a little boy; and I experienced a new found sense of belonging in my husband’s family. The warmth and acceptance by in-laws, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors was overwhelming and wonderful. Naturally, much of this happened around the dinner table.

Whether it was JJ eating a mountain of Nonna’s spaghetti (to the rapturous applause of the whole family) after spending his first few days eating only pretzels and Nutella, or watching Papa’s eyes light up as his mother made his all-time favorite dish — homemade cavatelli and broccoli rabe; or getting to sample some of the best and/or most peculiar foods I’d ever eaten: roasted rabbit, octopus, squash flowers stuffed with ricotta, prickly pear, panzarotti, pizza rustica, chitarra pasta with stracciatella cheese, fresh pomegranates and figs, and MAMMA MIA! — the best gelato in the history of humankind.

So why am I sharing this story and very likely making you hungry? Because while we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with our families, Papa and I have continued to be involved, stay engaged, argue from time-to-time, and give second, third and fourth chances as we see our relatives grow in their understanding and appreciation of our relationship and our family. And we’ve all been the richer (and fuller) for it.

If Barilla is sincere in their efforts to not just be diverse for the sake of diversity, but to truly “share their table” with any and all kinds of families, then I’m willing to hear them out and even help spread the message of communication, togetherness and family.
.

Barilla’s Share the Table Campaign

How to participate:
1. Take a photo or video of your family at the dinner table.
2. Share your photo/video on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #ShareTheTable.
3. Put away your phones and enjoy your meal together!

For every post between now and April 30th, Barilla will help provide the monetary equivalent of ten meals ($1.11) to Feeding America (a nationwide nonprofit organization that helps feed communities across the US), up to one million meals. For more info and mealtime inspiration visit ShareTheTable.com.

Barilla #ShareTheTable tortellini sauce

Barilla pasta #ShareTheTable JJ

You’ve probably seen me write about what a picky eater JJ is, so this little dinner montage is a pretty big deal.

 

1 Reuters2 The Independent

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla. For every post using #ShareTheTable from now until 4/30/14, Barilla will donate a monetary equivalent of ten meals ($1.11) to Feeding America®, up to 1 million meals. Barilla will donate a maximum of $110,000. One dollar helps provide 9 meals secured by Feeding America® on behalf of local member food banks.

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15 Responses to “Barilla Wants to Share the Table, Even with Same-Sex Parents”

  1. Dada Mike says:

    Making me hungry AND proud to be a subscriber!

  2. I’m glad they’re doing SOMETHING. I actually wasn’t aware of this and I’m a big Barilla person! Glad they’re making it right whether it’s for publicity or not.

  3. Larry Poole. says:

    I actually quit buying Barilla after the dust up. But I’m impressed with the their attempt to make amends. There is a choice here to expand the tent and be forgiving and inclusive or to be vindictive and unforgiving. I’d go with forgiving!

  4. Not a fan of Barilla says:

    Barilla invited me to buy another brand of pasta and I am more than happy to oblige. I have trouble believing this is not merely profit motivated. I’d be far more likely to be forgiving if they put their money where their damage control is and donated to some gay parenting charities or gay right organizations; cause reaching out to LGBT bloggers to do their gay-consumer advertising free of charge is just about the least they could possibly do to win me over.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Dear Not a Fan:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts — yours are comments Barilla has heard and I’m sure will continue to hear for some time. It was not a small mistake Mr. Barilla made and I totally understand this blog post (or a few, or many) won’t change anything quickly, if ever.

      However, I do want to point out that we were paid.

      Thanks again
      Brent

      • Not a fan of Barilla says:

        Point noted, but if they donated money to HRC instead of asking how to put together a marketing campaign I might believe they were sincere, or better yet if the CEO donated his own money I might believe he had changed but nothing here comes close to a mea culpa. It all looks like a business strategy and nothing more.

  5. Not a fan of Barilla says:

    Oh, and however admirable Feeding America is they have nothing to do with gay rights or ending homophobia and hate. The selection of charities is conspicuous for its lack of relevance to what they would ostensibly have us believe is a desire to right their wrong and makes the whole thing appear all the more insincere.

    • Brent Almond says:

      I agree — Feeding America isn’t relevant to LGBT rights. But it is relevant to Barilla’s business. And the Share The Table campaign was not intended to right any wrongs against gays, but is a recurring campaign to combat hunger in the United States. Much of Barilla’s work regarding diversity has been on a corporate/behind-the-scenes level, with the inclusion of and reaching out to gay and lesbian parents via LGBT bloggers a way of including them in a way they hadn’t before.

      No one thing is going to make it right, but I appreciate this step and others they’ve taken, and I look forward to seeing even more progress made through Share The Table and other campaigns.

  6. Kit says:

    I appreciate their making an effort, and hope they are sincere in their efforts. But…I find it unlikely that the owner/CEO has changed his stripes and is now on board with equality. All the reaching across the table doesn’t make up for the slaps and denigration or make him something other than he has been. If he wants the LGBT community to come back to his product, he’s got to show that he personally has changed, and not just his company. I don’t support Chik Fil A now and never will. Dan Cathy won’t ever change and I doubt Bariila pasta’s CEO ever will either.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Kit:
      Thanks for your comment. I get what you’re saying. I’m trying to separate the man and the company (which I agree is often very hard to do). And if we’re comparing Barilla to Chik-Fil-A, as far as I know, Chik-Fil-A has made NO attempt to apologize or change their stance. Barilla has. I have a hard time not being skeptical, too, but I’m willing to give Barilla (the company) a chance, to see how they include LGBT persons in other campaigns like Share the Table, and hopefully one day their advertising.

  7. Laura says:

    When the big bruh ha ha happened last year, I literally had 6 boxes of their pasta in my cabinet. So my daughter and I decided (well I did, cuz at 16 she doesn’t buy or cook her own dinners yet) that the companies anti “Anything that isn’t what they consider NORMAL” stance offended me and many of my friends. I figured that man would look down his rich aristocratic nose at my single Mom status and *GASP* my half black child as well. I threw out their pasta and bought a different brand. I applaud you for being able to be a better person. I just can’t believe that the CEO of Barilla REALLY thinks that the world believes his and his company’s sudden change of beliefs. I agree with Kit, as much as I love Chik fil a, I don’t eat it anymore when I go on vacation to cities that have them. I and REALLY love their chicken. But, I really love my friends more, and I really hate Big Corporations that will do ANYTHING in public to make you give them your money……. cuz that’s all it boils down to. MONEY.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Laura:
      In choosing to partner with Barilla I’m supporting a company that is learning from their past and making strides for a more fair-minded and diverse future. It is important for me to show my son how to give people a second chance. And we may never know for sure if Guido Barilla had a true change of heart, but it seems some (or many) in the company have a desire to at the very least improve their image and stay in business, and hopefully there is some true sincerity in there as well. Businesses aren’t people, but they are made up of people and families.

      Sorry, that got a little rambly… :) Thanks for your comment and for reading!
      Brent

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