Renovated Field and Fork Pantry Introduces Students to Global Cuisines
Sustainable UF Intern & Contributing Writer
University of Florida students now have the opportunity to sharpen their cooking skills and learn about other cultures – for free.
In a collaboration between the UF Field and Fork Pantry and the UF Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) department, free Global Kitchen cooking classes will be hosted every month for UF students. Each class features recipes of famous dishes from countries around the globe, like Vietnam and India.
The purpose of the class is to help college students’ enhance their cooking skills, encourage the consumption of healthy produce and highlight the role of the Field and Fork Pantry on campus. The preparation of all meals is vegetarian and sometimes vegan, but participants have the option to alter the recipe by adding meat.
Second-year food science major Jenny Duong is the culinary coordinator for the program. She and her program partner, third-year dietetics major Alex Colon, create the recipes together and supervise the classes, ensuring the safety and sanitation of the class environment.
“Many students do not know about the [Field and Fork Pantry] and its many benefits, so we wanted to create easy and quick recipes that are nutritionally balanced for the college lifestyle,” Duong said, “we want to highlight that creating a nutritionally balanced meal is not only simple but affordable.”
The classes are the brainchild of Dr. Jeanette Andrade, a FSHN department assistant professor and facilitator of the Global Kitchen cooking classes.
While working at Eastern Illinois University, Andrade found that many students did not have basic cooking skills and were consuming more processed foods. When she came to UF, Andrade pitched the idea of creating a cooking class featuring international recipes to enhance the skills of students to the FSHN department.
The initiation of the Global Kitchen cooking classes comes after the Field and Fork Pantry reopened in November 2019 after undergoing a major renovation, tripling the building in size. With the extra space, there is more room for storage and processing donations, as well as for better organization of food.
First-year UF pharmacy student Ally Campbell said she plans on signing up for the class on April 15, which features recipes from Mexico.
“I think these classes are a great opportunity for students to learn about other cultures, and also to learn more about vegetarian cuisine,” Campbell said, “I’m really excited.”
Much of the food used in the classes come from the pantry itself, and also the Field and Fork Farm and Gardens.
Dina Liebowitz, the program coordinator for the gardens, said that almost everything they grow is sent to the pantry.
“People are getting a lot of canned goods and shelf-stable goods [when they visit the pantry], but are also getting the fresh produce grown right on campus,” Liebowitz said.
According to the pantry’s website, their mission is to be a resource for members of the UF community “who are experiencing food insecurity.” Food insecurity is defined as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” A 2019 study conducted at UF found that of the 244 first-year UF students surveyed, 21.7 percent stated that they were food insecure.
Liebowitz said she thinks the Field and Fork programs are a great resource for the UF community to learn about food systems, and what society can do to try to minimize food insecurity.
“It opens up the conversation of ‘how do we try to minimize the need for these sorts of resources’ and in the meantime, ‘how we can try to support people who are experiencing need,’” Liebowitz said.
The Global Kitchen classes occur on the third Wednesday of every month in the Pilot Plant of the UF Food Science and Human Nutrition Building. To learn more about the classes and to sign up, check out the Google Form sign up sheet here, or visit the Field and Fork Pantry website here.