Last Thursday, the CCV-Winooski center was full of renewed energy. Walking through the door, you could hear music in the background, laughter, and the indistinct conversations from people who hadn’t seen one another in years. As you got closer to the Janice Couture Room, the smell of food enticed you to enter, and the smiles on everyone’s faces made it apparent that this was a celebration.
CCV-Winooski hosted its 20th annual International Food Festival where CCV students, staff, faculty and the community were all welcome to join to learn about one another and different cultures, and to bond over a shared love: food. “We have students at CCV from 85 different countries,” CCV President Joyce Judy said. “It is pretty amazing…it feels so filling to see so many students here, so many members of the community, just getting together and enjoying some food and celebrating our differences and our likenesses.”
Due to Covid, this was the first International Food Festival held since 2019, which meant there were many people who enjoyed the celebration for the first time this year, including CCV-Upper Valley staff member Erin Wetherell. “I really appreciate the chance to gather with people in person, especially opportunities where it’s both staff and students…what better way to connect with people than through food and sharing food that is part of our identities and our cultures?” Erin said.
Some students enjoyed the Food Festival for the first time as well. Julia Matos is a CCV-Winooski student from Brazil who moved to Vermont in 2020 with her family. “I miss Brazil,” Julia said, “but I don’t have the same opportunities there as I do here [in the US].” Julia is studying criminal justice at CCV and says she was “excited to come here.” She has jumped into participating in student life at CCV, making a Brazilian cheese bread to share at the Food Festival. Neerusha Phuiao is a CCV-Winooski Early College student who chose to share in the festivities and learn about other cultures through tasting the various foods. For Neerusha, the Food Festival is important because “it shows inclusivity and shows how many cultures there are at CCV, which is personally my favorite thing about [the College].”
The International Food Festival was created in 2000 by CCV staff members Amy Stuart and Marianne DiMascio, who are still on the planning committee today and have seen the celebration grow over the years—last week, more than 120 people participated. “The purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for people to come together and talk and meet one another. I think it’s an opportunity for faculty to connect some of what they’re teaching to the multicultural world we’re all a part of. I think another purpose is for people to relax and learn new things about who their classmates, teachers, and staff are. It’s a place for families to come,” Amy shared.
The afternoon included a variety of food provided by community organizations, CCV staff, and students, as well as the creation of henna designs by a community member. Dishes represented multiple countries of origin, including but not limited to Nepal, Brazil, Syria, Somalia, Tajikistan, Korea, and Jamaica. CCV Dean of People and Culture Mary Brodsky prepared a Korean dish for her first experience at the festival. “People love to gather around food,” she said. “The Food Festival helps to build that sense of community for people from all different cultures and places…it’s just a lovely time to be with people that you care about and meet new friends.”
Girma Meskelle is a CCV-Winooski alumnus who participated in the Food Festival as a student sharing Ethiopian food, and who was happy to join in the festivities again this year as a guest. As a student Girma liked being able “to see people from other countries” in his classes and in the center. For him, the Food Festival builds on that experience. “When you take a class, you just take the class and go home or to work, but when this kind of event happens, you see how many countries are participating, how many people from different countries get a chance to learn here. It’s a good community here.”
View the full photo gallery from the 2023 International Food Festival: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjACwxj.