National Institute on Aging

Using Food to Bridge the Cultural Divide

“Sharing Experience: Heritage, Home and History” was the title of a research project conducted at Mississippi State University in Starksville this spring. To launch examinations of culture and diversity, the nearly two dozen students brought along personal recipes from their respective homes. With them, each began researching the cultural, social and economic practices of production and consumption of their recipes’ various ingredients.

Each of the workshop’s three sessions involved a “focus food.” At each session, an informational lecture by a workshop’s organizer was followed by a multi-course meal of cultural dishes featuring the “focus food” of the day.

“Bringing together students from diverse backgrounds to share personal memories, recipes and a meal in the context of their unique cultural backgrounds proved a fun and enriching way to build empathy and promote cultural and global awareness,” explained Emily McGlohn, one of the organizers of the project. “Sharing a meal is a sensitive, respectful way to understand, learn and start a conversation about our heritage, home and history. We gained a better understanding of each other’s heritage through our culinary traditions, and we also learned about each other’s history and background through stories shared around the table.”


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