Chinese Food Festival a Culinary and Cultural Success
Sanford’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) takes many forms, from in-service training to attendance at conferences to school-wide assemblies. But sometimes, opportunities are more organic and actually come from the students themselves.
In January, the Sanford International Student Association (SISA) held its annual Chinese Food Lunch offering a wide variety of typical Chinese foods for students to try. Co-event coordinator, Karen Fang '20 shared: "We moved the event to the Warrior Cafe this year to have more space. We served Kung Pao chicken, vegetable spring rolls, beef with broccoli, dumplings, and rice." Another event coordinator, Jiayi Wu '20 added: "We wanted to sponsor a cultural event where the international students could enjoy sharing one of the biggest celebrations of the year, Chinese New Year, with each other and with our classmates. Chinese New Year is like our Christmas; it is a very big and important celebration."
To spark interest, SISA held taste-test teasers during lunch several times prior to the luncheon. "We had more student participation in our luncheon than ever before, and we were so pleased with the response from the student body," said Jiayi. "We even added a dessert sale this year with offerings such as red bean buns, tea cakes, and sweet/sour plum juice. We are grateful to the Crownery Restaurant in Lantana Square for working with us to provide the delicious food."
Jaiyi laughed when asked if the students used chopsticks to enjoy their Chinese meal. "No, they add an extra expense and are not very convenient for some of my classmates. But, that would be a good idea. Maybe we could teach how to use them when we do the pre-meal tastings next year." Karen noted: "I have participated in the luncheons for the past three years, and I welcome the opportunity to share my culture with Sanford students and teachers. They are very receptive."
Upper School English Instructor and Department Chair Brianna Smale sponsors SISA. All freshman international students are required to join SISA to ensure that they have a layer of support as they transition to the Upper School. After that, participation is voluntary, but most students continue with the group, as they are proud to offer assistance to the newer students and want to work to share their culture with the student body. Jiayi added: "We ask a new student to briefly make an announcement during morning meeting at least twice a month. This way, students can share some cultural facts and practice using their English skills in front of a larger group."
Smale said that the Chinese Festival Luncheon started several years ago under the direction of Ruilin Yang '16. She continued: "I care about this luncheon because I love the dumplings; but, seriously and more importantly, I love that there is an opportunity for the Chinese students to share their food and an important cultural holiday with Sanford. They make all the arrangements entirely on their own, and in Chinese. It is wonderful to see our students so passionate about sharing with one another."
SISA also sponsored a jeans day, and they used the funds raised from that and the profits from the dessert sales and luncheon to make a charitable contribution to Save the Children. The group researched a variety of charities and selected Save the Children, which was founded in 1919 as the first charity dedicated to serving children, based on the organization’s mission and low administrative costs. The $500 donation from SISA will help Save the Children continue to service 134 million children from more than 120 countries, including the United States.
Karen concluded: “Being a member of SISA gives me the chance to learn so much about other people’s perspectives on Asian cultures. I am so happy to have had this platform (the Chinese Food Festival) to make people more familiar with my culture. I am grateful for everyone’s enthusiasm and participation. I hope that SISA will continue to sponsor the Chinese Food Festival in the future and maybe even add other meaningful events to help showcase our culture in ways that do not include food.”