Food for Thought: A Conversation about Food and Cultural Identity Prompts Collaborative Efforts

Danielle McColgan ’14
Contributing Writer

Last Tuesday, members of the Smith community had the opportunity to explore the intersections among food, culture and belonging. During a panel entitled “Oh Comfort Food, How I Miss You! The Reality of Cultural Transitions for Women of Color at Smith,” sponsored by the Wurtele Center for Work and Life, the panel discussed how dining affects student of color and impacts their transition into the Smith community.

Panel organizers Emma Scarpa AC ’13, Yenisleidy Simon AC ’13 and Melissa Mutter ’13 began exploring the question of cultural transition in their Society, Psychology and Health seminar when Professor Benita Jackson proposed that the students mobilize around a health issue on campus. Simon had a unique perspective to share that stemmed from her personal transition into Smith as a transfer student who had found it hard to adjust to the unfamiliar foods offered at Smith. Not only did this experience harm Simon’s physical health, but it also affected how she was able to acclimate to the part of Smith culture that hinges on dining hall interactions.

When the three students recognized that Simon’s experience was not unique, they began to investigate further. “The project was a collective of [Simon’s] personal experience and the experiences of her friends. It wasn’t just happening to [her],” said Scarpa.

After collaborating independently with Dining Services, the trio wanted to involve more student voices in the discussion and the idea of the panel was born. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, panelists Dannia Guzman ’15, Gloria Lee ’15 and Imogene

Leave a Comment