Twelve cultural clubs participated in “A Taste of Oxy” April 5. “A Taste of Oxy” was a food market experience that provided students with an opportunity to savor a range of regional cuisines as a part of Springfest weekend. The event was organized and co-sponsored by the Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement office (SLICE), the Diplomacy & World Affairs (DWA) department, International Programs Office (IPO), Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) and the Dean of Students office. According to Will Canavan (sophomore), one of the SLICE student coordinators who planned this event, 366 students visited the market in the 1.5-hour period. Participating clubs offered food ranging from Korean fried chicken to South American pastries.
Canavan said the idea of a multicultural food market was initially proposed by Jona Yadidi (sophomore), who is also a SLICE programming coordinator and served as a central organizer for the event.
“I [had] the idea for a cultural food fair and I wanted it to be free for students so they could learn about Oxy’s diversity,” Yadidi said.
The event took place in the quad from 6–7:30 p.m. However, a crowd of students who stood in a line that spanned from the middle of the quad to the far edge of Swan Hall, quickly consumed the majority of the food by 7 p.m. Yadidi explained that students first checked in at the entrance area, where they received plates, utensils and three tickets to taste food from three different cultural clubs for free.
Participating clubs had a diverse and thoughtfully chosen selection of dishes. The International Student Organization (ISO) sold Latin American pastries because they had not given enough attention to this region in their previous events, according to Hannah Huang (sophomore), president of ISO. Wesley Hsiao (sophomore), founder of Foodies at Oxy club (FOXY), said they sold Korean fried chicken because it’s popular and tasty, which links it with the “foodies” theme.
Following the initial proposal of the idea, Canavan and Yadidi reached out to Occidental’s cultural clubs. Canavan said communication between the organizers and cultural clubs was challenging but important for planning and budgetary matters.
“We had two meetings with club leaders, though attendance was low. Mostly just sending them emails and Google Forms, trying to collect information about stuff.” Canavan said. “But we actually got all of the clubs to show up to an ASOC finance meeting, which is when we requested money for funding.”
Isabella McShane (senior), the secretary for the Korean American Student Association (KASA), said KASA volunteered to be the financial representative when requesting ASOC funding. This meant the club submitted the funding request and acted as the liaison between ASOC and other clubs involved in “A Taste of Oxy.” Canavan said KASA, as the representative, requested $2,400 in total, which meant each club would receive $200 for food and preparation.
Clubs participating in the event had common goals, among them was to foster cross-cultural conversations through food. Hsiao said food is a medium for him to understand other cultures.
“I think it’s good for people to become more open-minded about food in general,” Hsiao said. “A lot of ways that I understand other cultures from different perspectives is through their food. I actually converse through food.”
Huang said besides publicity, showing support for diversity is also an important reason why her club joined. McShane resonated with Huang’s sentiments and said KASA’s involvement symbolized their solidarity with other cultural clubs at Occidental.
Toward the end of “A Taste of Oxy,” Canavan said he thought the event went well given how quickly the food sold out. Yadidi agreed and said the turnout showed its success. Claire Seo (sophomore) was one of the 366 students who went to the event and said although she arrived later when there was less food, it was still a great — and tasty — experience overall.
Canavan said SLICE will aim to host multicultural events like “A Taste of Oxy” at least once every year, and as of now, the office is trying to evaluate the possibility of a “wine night” involving collaboration with local wineries.