On Tuesday, October 20, the walkway between The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Rivera Library bustled with activity as students lined up for free samples of new products such as roasted agave sriracha brussel sprouts, vegetarian butternut squash sweet pepper tacos, orange flavored ice cream and a variety of fruit infused water.
All of the ingredients utilized for these dishes were seasonal and locally-sourced, and were prepared by student workers. The tasting was the second installment in a series of events organized by UCR Dining Services in commemoration of Food Day — an annual UC-wide celebration of healthy foods and sustainability.
While other campuses celebrated for only one day and in a single location, UCR Dining Services organized a weeklong program of events that took place throughout the campus. Besides the sampling fair, the week’s festivities included cooking demonstrations in the SRC Kitchen, the HUB and the Market at Glen Mor. Dining halls served speciality burgers made with grass-fed beef and mushrooms, and a Spa Water Challenge invited residents to become more involved in Food Week. The R’Garden was also highlighted by showcasing the produce grown there and by hosting a screening of the film “Symphony of Soil.”
Each event was designed with the intention of promoting social and personal responsibility in students’ food choices. Cooking demonstrations promoted the use of healthy ingredients and showed alternative methods of cooking that reduce the campus carbon footprint, while the food sampling on campus and special dishes at the dining halls introduced students to healthy and sustainable food. The movie screening at the R’Garden reacquainted students with where and how food is grown, and the Spa Water Challenge informed students of the hidden health dangers of consuming sugary beverages while suggesting a more nutritious alternative.
Executive Director Cheryl Gardner explained the motivations behind such events, “I think just building awareness about the things we eat is important, but also, getting people to try food that is healthy for them, but also seeing how delicious it can be, is very important. Nobody cares if it is healthy, if it also doesn’t taste memorable and yummy.”
Throughout the year, Dining Services applies their “Seeds of Change” initiative, which emphasize the use of healthier oils and prioritize fresh produce in food preparation. More than 20 percent of the food served in on-campus restaurants and residential dining halls are made with local and sustainable ingredients. Fresh orange juice made from UCR oranges are sold at multiple Scotty’s locations, and “no sugar added” beverages are now being served at The Barn and The Market at Glen Mor. Dining Services also gives back to the community by participating in food donations and collaborations with other UCR organizations to promote student health and wellness.
Although Dining Services practices environmental consciousness throughout their daily operations, Garner acknowledges that Food Week is also significant in promoting unity across campuses and organizations. “Food Week is an opportunity for all UC Campuses to join forces and focus on “Eating Real.” It is an opportunity for multiple groups on campus to share programs and information in the hopes that people will change the way they eat and care for our planet,” she expressed.