The University of South Florida is a cultural melting pot, with a student body representing more than 146 countries. USF Dining Services celebrates the diversity of the USF community through its Tastes Around the World program, which introduces diners on the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses to a new ingredient or cooking style every week. For some, it’s a taste of home, for others, it’s an educational opportunity to try something new.
“Food has been bringing people together since the time of the caveman,” said David DiSalvo, district manager for USF Dining Services. “When we get to share experiences, broaden our palate or broaden our perspective through food, it creates authentic and meaningful connections between people.”
Research conducted by Aramark, the university’s food service partner, shows college communities have a strong desire for more global flavors that are often underrepresented in dining halls, with 67% of Gen Z preferring authentic cultural cuisine.
When the idea for Tastes Around the World was first piloted at USF, campus diners from different countries were invited to give their perspective on the recipes. Using this feedback, the chefs were able to tweak the food to be more authentic and even shared the new recipes with Aramark's global collegiate network. Ever since, the program has been a hit and according to Jessica Cicalese, marketing director for USF Dining Services, when Peri-Peri chicken was served in the spring, a student reached out to say that the meal made him feel like he was at home in Portugal. “It’s very meaningful to hear that kind of feedback,” Cicalese said.
Tastes Around the World dishes can be found inside Juniper Dining and The Hub on the Tampa campus and The Nest on the St. Petersburg campus. Students, faculty and staff can use USF Meal Swipes, USF Dining Dollars, cash or credit/debit cards to enjoy the all-you-care-to-eat dining halls. The weekly international features range from a special ingredient such as gochujang, a red chili paste popular in Korean cooking, to a cooking technique such as searing tortillas on a flat top with smoky paprika oil to make dirty tacos. “This program allows our chefs to be innovative and diners can taste and learn about something they don’t normally eat,” Cicalese said. “Our registered dietitians can also educate them about the health and wellness aspect.”
Coming up in the spring, USF Dining Services will partner with USF Housing & Residential Education for their annual Juniper Nation celebration inside Juniper Dining. The one-day event features food and music from 11 nations chosen by students. Diners are encouraged to complete the event’s food passport by trying a dish from every country. The signature event will soon expand to the St. Petersburg campus.
Another opportunity for USF Bulls to try something new is the Produce of the Month program. November is pumpkin and the seasonal produce can be found across the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses in dining hall dishes and convenience store snacks. There are also pop-up samplings coordinated with produce-shaped stress ball giveaways, which have developed quite a following and their own Instagram account. In an effort to educate the USF community on produce seasonality and how to cook a healthy meal on a budget, in collaboration with Student Health Services, Argos Exchange hosts cooking demonstrations using the Produce of the Month. Next month’s feature is pomegranate. “We want to promote the benefits of eating seasonal produce because it’s more sustainable and cost effective to use produce that is more abundant and travels less,” DiSalvo said.
To learn more about the next Tastes Around the World feature, check out the online menu for each dining location. Keep an eye on the calendar of events or sign up to receive an email newsletter to stay up to date on where to find the Produce of the Month. Contact USF Dining Services to provide feedback and suggestions on their menus.