Photos by Jade Premont

“Food is sharing,” said Vale, a business student at CCV. She was serving up traditional dishes from her home country of Colombia—chicken and rice, tostones, flan de leche—with an enormous smile. 

Around her, more than 130 people crowded together for CCV-Winooski’s 21st International Food Festival. The tradition began when staff, faculty, and students “gathered to share cultures, food, and stories, build relationships, and have a good time,” said staff member Tashi Sherpa as he welcomed guests. Vale said she loves to cook, and she loves to share her cooking, so the Food Fest was a must-do. “I want to be more involved with the community, and share about my country with my community at CCV.”

The event is about sharing and connecting, and it’s also about celebrating the diversity of the CCV community. In the student body alone, more than 85 countries are represented. On Thursday evening, toddlers played hide-and-seek and senior citizens shared quiet conversation. Students socialized with faculty and staff, joined by leadership from the Vermont State Colleges and the City of Winooski. Tables were laden with foods from more than fifteen countries, including Myanmar, India, Greece, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. Students, staff, and faculty, as well as several local caterers, brought dishes as diverse as chap chae from Korea, spicy beef and fried plantain from Angola, and “Aunt Karen’s potato candy” from Germany.

An Early College student named Will stopped by on his way to class. “I was kind of wondering what kinds of foods would be here and thought it would be fun to stop in. I love food, and also it’s just kind of fun to see people enjoying other cultures.” He noted on his name tag that in addition to English, he also speaks French and Dutch. “I don’t speak them very well,” he said with a laugh, “but I was kind of hoping I could talk to someone in French.”

Staff member Amy Stuart has been part of the event since the beginning. Though “it gets richer and evolves over time, in some ways it’s the same,” she says. “The faces have changed but the feeling of community has not changed, the feeling of connecting has not changed, the feeling of being part of a bigger thing than just myself or my family hasn’t changed.”

“I love working with food because my mom used to have a restaurant back in Somalia and I grew up being around food all the time, so I love cooking,” said a caterer named Jilib, who brought two vats of samosas to share, along with hot sauce. A student named Priya proudly displayed the chicken dumplings—called momos, in her home country of Nepal—she’d made for the occasion.“I just want people to know more about my culture and actually get a taste of my culture too,” she said.

Embracing diversity is a priority at CCV, as we work to create an environment where everyone can be themselves and everyone can thrive. Sharing a big meal on a chilly Thursday afternoon is an ideal way to bring that effort home. As Tashi said, “the festival features and highlights that everyone is welcome in this community.”

View more Food Fest photos here:

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