In this ongoing feature, we ask IGR students and alumni each month for their opinion on a fun question that relates to issues that are discussed within IGR's courses and co-curricular activities.This month's question is: "We don't always think about how food can be very connected to identity, and interactions amongst different identities. What identity issues do you see unfolding around the different foods students on campus eat and the reasons behind what they eat?
Graduate Student, U-M School of Social Work
IGR Alumni Student Coordinator
"Food, to me, has always been intrinsically tied to race and class. It is ever-present on campus when I see so many stores and shops full of (in my opinion) expensive organic foods and white women. As a black woman who's of lower middle class, I have come to the conclusion that our meals will never look the same, because of the income gap and overall culture differences."
College of LSA
"I see food on campus as something rooted in class, culture/background, and religion. Buying food can be really expensive, but cooking at home takes planning, preparation, and time. With course loads being what they are and many students working on top of that, feeding oneself on a budget can be tough. Culture and religion come into play in terms of traditions and sometimes dietary restrictions, and for students away from their communities I think it can be a way to feel connected. I have also seen examples of food from different cultures on campus as a part of a fundraiser for student orgs and as a part of programming on campus from various divisions of student life."
4th Year Student, College of LSA
IGR Student Engagement Team Co-Coordinator
"One of the most fundamental ways in which I see food and identity connecting on campus is at the intersection of gender and socioeconomic status. I've noticed that many, if not all, of the women that I know on campus have some variation on disordered eating. As a society, women are told that their worth is inversely proportional to their dress size, and as a result I see the women in my life scrounging to find ways to accommodate this need to be thin with their desire to partake in social events and bonding that revolve around food. I've found that wealthier women on campus are, in general, able to accommodate this balancing act more. With the ability to go out to dinner and pay upwards of $10 for a salad, or shop at Whole Foods instead of Walgreens, or even have extra time to work out because they aren't working long hours, women with higher socioeconomic statuses tend to have an easier time accommodating the difficult demands that society places on them to eat less, and are able to eat "healthier" with more ease."
Graduate Student, School of Social Work
IGR Social Work Intern
"As someone who is Korean-American, yet grew up in a school community where I was very nearly the only person of color, being able to eat authentic Korean cuisine was a very important was of connecting back to my cultural identity. However, as I watch students eat “fusion-cuisine” and “Americanized” versions of various ethnic foods, I can’t help but feel a sense of cultural appropriation - in that by throwing some Kimchi on a sandwich, it can be called 'Korean'."
First-Year Student, College of LSA
IGR Office Assistant
"I believe that a lot of people expect others of different races and ethnic backgrounds to fall into certain pre-determined categories, including the types of foods they eat. It's a constant struggle between eating the things one enjoys and not enforcing a stereotype. This can be a very hard thing to balance, especially when a person is unfamiliar with the culture and trying to adjust to their life, and that can hinder their experience"