Oswego State has seen some recent changes in the dining halls across campus this year. Each month has a different heritage that is being celebrated.
The reason behind the diverse food is last spring Jerald Woolfook, vice president for student affairs and enrollment, formed the diversity and inclusion committee. The committee decided to make the celebration of “Heritage Month” one of its goals, along with diversity and inclusion training for student, staff and faculty, to infuse diversity education into orientation programming, and develop a diversity and inclusion webpage, according to Jerri Drummond, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
“Racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage months were formed by the federal government to provide a time for Americans to reflect on principles of racial equality and social change, recognize and celebrate minority groups, historic accomplishments, which have been left out of most textbooks, and to commemorate the immigration of the first immigrants to the U.S. and their significant contributions to this nation,” Drummond said.
The awareness of heritage month is not targeted to any specific ethnicity, but for the whole campus to become aware of different cultures. One way awareness is being spread is through the “I am Oz” campaign.
“On the road to becoming a multicultural competent organization the first step is awareness. The ‘I am Oz’ campaign is a part of awareness building,” Drummond said. “Participation in the ‘I am Oz’ campaign is voluntary. A list of faculty, students and staff who identify as a member of racial or ethnic groups are sent an event invitation to participate.”
By the use of this campaign, the administration has made it their goal to promote diversity and ethnic awareness across campus.
“The impact is that heritage month programs are spurring dialogue around racial, ethnic, and cultural issues and building awareness, which is empowering students to want to create programs like ‘Civility Day,’ and ‘Use Another Word’ event,” Drummond said.
Foods from that ethnicity are available throughout that particular month and there is also a specific day that is devoted to that heritage, according to Craig Traub, commissary of auxiliary services residential dining.
“We were asked to prepare foods that are ethnically related to those particular heritages,” Traub said. “We try to do one dinner meal in the month and then throughout the whole month there are other items that we identify that are with that particular month that we are celebrating.”
There is a lot of research that goes into preparing ethnically diverse food for the different heritage months, according to the campus resident dietitian Sarah Formoza.
“I do our regular menus, and for the special ones, I did a lot of research on the culture and looking for recipes,” Formoza said. “We have gotten a recipe from a staff member that was from that culture. But we do a lot of research on the recipes, and I work with our purchasing manager to try to get some of the products if it’s something we don’t normally have. Then we go and test some of the recipes before they are on the menu to make sure they are going to work for us.”
The Oswego State bakery is also involved when it comes to heritage month.
“We try to choose something that we can do in our kitchen on a large scale. The bakeshop is involved too, with the flan and a pumpkin spice cake,” Formoza said. “They will make those items ahead of time and send them to me, and we will try them out to make sure that they work.”
The process also includes making the ingredients and nutritional facts available for the online menu.
“We put the recipes in the computer system with the nutritional facts and ingredients,” Formoza said. “I put that into the system with all the product information and then that’s how it gets online, which has to be done specially for those dinners.”
The dining halls still provide other options for students to eat if they choose not to eat the ethnic food.
“We still have other options available when these items are being severed,” Traub said. “What we are trying to do though is encourage people to try these items. The corncakes were an amazing item, especially if you put some of the toppings on. We had real maple syrup or the maple butter syrup. It’s a matter of trying to encourage people to try these things. That’s mainly what our effort is.”
Students have mixed reactions on the ethnically diverse food available this year.
“I think it’s really great that the school offers ethnic food for our diverse campus,” said Rebecca Howe, a junior at Oswego State. “It’s good to have a variety of foods so students can try new things and eat what appeals to them.”
However, not all students are enjoying the diversity.
“I honestly don’t eat any of the ethnic food,” said sophomore Melissa Bent. “I don’t think it looks appealing and would prefer more of the food that we had last year instead of the heritage dinners. I feel like a lot of people are eating the other options available instead of the ethnic food.”
Students have been using the comment cards provided in the dining hall to give their feedback on what they think of the ethnically diverse food.
“We have had some people ask to have items on our regular menu,” Formoza said. “The plantains and calamari are a couple items people have asked to incorporate on our regular menu. I think the students are responding very well. It’s been nice to have some variety to the menu.”