Increasing cultural awareness through the palate
By Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor
Lakehead University’s international student population has been increasing exponentially in recent years. LUSU’s Multicultural Center (MCC) President, Mishael Almugait, took note of the widely diverse student population at Lakehead and decided that more initiatives needed to be established in order to increase cultural awareness across campus. A new and extremely successful initiative, which was established by Almugait, is the #TryMyFood campaign.
#TryMyFood is a volunteer based program where LU students or faculty prepare a dish from their culture to be shared publicly on campus. The food is served to students (free of charge) and volunteer cooks stand by, ready to answer any questions students may have regarding the ingredients and cultural tradition of the dish. The idea was inspired by the MCC’s annual Cultural Day, where students of various backgrounds share their culture’s traditions and food with other students and faculty. Almugait noted, “I’ve seen how much people like sharing food on cultural days, so I thought why not make it every month.”
She also commented on the importance of community events such as #TryMyFoodbecause they, “ignite conversations between cultures and between students from different backgrounds.” She believes that it is important to educate ourselves about the cultures and traditions of those around us, so we can reinforce positivity in community diversity while expanding our understanding of what culture means. Almugait said that, “it’s very positive. I like when people share the fun and positive stuff about their cultures,” in lieu of the negative portrayals and stereotypes which are often presented through the media. Events such as these are helpful for de-stigmatizing groups and creating a more inclusive and aware space.
Almugait hopes this initiative can become a monthly event, however, they do rely entirely on student volunteers. The food that is selected to participate exclusively depends on which students are available to volunteer and prepare food from their culture. In addition, any and all ingredients that students buy to make the food are all reimbursed by the MCC. Almugait said every event they have held thus far has been wildly successful, “every time we bring in food it’s gone within the first hour.” Some dishes that have been shared in the past include: Chinese green tea, Persian kababs, and samosas, but Almugait tries to keep the food and culture choice a secret until it is announced on their Facebook page shortly before the event.
If you’re interested in participating in this campaign, you can contact the Multicultural Center via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers for Cultural Day, an annual event that occurs during Cultural Development Week in February, are also welcome to contact the MCC. Remember to like their Facebook page so you don’t miss out on any of the tasty food being prepared for you!