International Food Fair brings culture through food to Iowa State

Students from the Association of Malaysian Students at ISU serve traditional foods from their culture at the International Food Fair on Saturday, April 7 in the Memorial Union. 

Zhe (Mia) Wang

Twelve multicultural student organizations showcased their country’s culture through international cuisines at the annual International Food Fair hosted by the International Student Council (ISC) on Saturday.

According to Chandrachur Sengupta, junior in chemical engineering and ISC volunteer committee director, the International Food Fair has been happening at Iowa State for 46 years and has served more than 36,000 community members.

“What a better way to bring people together than food? Here in Ames, you don’t have a lot of international food choices. So, it also promotes culture,” Sengupta said. “It’s great for a university to have a such diversity, but if you don’t promote their culture. It’s kind of letting the diversity go to waste.”

Krista McCallum-Beatty, director of the International Student & Scholars Office, also attended the event. She said the International Food Fair is a celebration for the presence of Iowa State’s international students.

“Food is a great entry point for learning more about a new culture,” McCallum-Beatty said. “If you are having the food, you would want to know the significance of the food, how it is made or when it is served or why people chose to do this. By attending events like this, people are able to witness our diversity within the international student population.”

Besides the food stands, ISC also put out a donation booth for its Humanitarian Awareness Committee (HAC), a department that raises awareness for humanitarian issues, such as famine, poverty and refugees.

Attendees needed to purchase food tickets, priced at 50 cents, and they were encouraged to donate the spare tickets to the donation booth. The collected money will go toward Oxfam, a global organization working to end poverty.

Saturday’s event also served as a fundraiser for student organizations. The food tickets each stand collected will be cashed out to help student organizations host their own events.

Victor Pecsen-Perez, sophomore in aerospace engineering and president of the Brazilian Student Organization, said it is the organization’s first International Food Fair experience.

“We prepared our best-selling chocolate dessert,” Pecsen-Perez said. “This is a great event, because it’s important for ISU students to know about us, and we also get money for it.”

The event attracted both international student groups and domestic student groups.

Ved Prakash is a graduate student in aerospace engineering from India. He came with the goal of trying every dish on the menu.

“Food is a very important part of a culture. This event gives a huge insight on how people’s culture is,” Prakash said. “Nowadays, everyone is busy. In this event, at one place, people are able to experience so many different cultures and it’s lunch time. Everything is affordable, why don’t you come?”

Alyssa Yanni is a graduate student in history from Pennsylvania. She came to the event with her fiancé Caleb Lumley, senior in mechanical engineering.

“We have a diverse culture. Unfortunately, in a state school, the international population is still a small percentage. It’s nice for them to share their culture and food with everyone else,” Yanni said.

The participating organizations were Association of Malaysian Students at ISU, Arab Students Association, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Egyptian Students Association, Japanese Association, Iranian Students’ and Scholars’ Association, Indonesian Student Association, Russian Club, Russian-Speaking Association, Thai Student Association, Brazilian Student Organization, Pakistan Student Association and Vietnamese International Students Association. Together, they prepared more than 30 traditional cuisines and beverages.

Attendees voted for the organizations that prepared their favorite food items throughout the event.

The top three were Iranian Students’ and Scholar’s Association, Association of Malaysian Students at ISU and Pakistan Student Association.

“People really enjoyed the food, and I think they definitely got something more than food out of this event,” said Sengupta.