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UC Davis dining facility celebrates diversity

The University of California has built a $34 million dining facility that offers international dishes from Indian shrimp curry to Tuscan kale and white bean soup in a bid to celebrate diversity and make overseas students “feel more at home”. 

The new Latitude Dining Commons. Photo: University of California

So far the facility has provided a total of 900 dishes from regions around the world

Latitude Restaurant is situated on UC Davis, one of the University of California’s 10 campuses. It was opened in January this year after a 24 month building period. 

“We want to give our students that sense of comfort”

So far, the facility has provided a total of 300 dishes from regions around the world including Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, India, and Asia. 

Director of dining services for the university, Kraig Brady explained that Latitude was designed to celebrate the diverse culture of its campus community. 

“My idea was to find out how I make somebody from abroad feel more at home,” Brady told The PIE News

“Sometimes having something familiar makes you more comfortable and being from a different country a lot of our food that we serve is simply different from what international students are used to. 

So we thought that if we could offer them something more familiar it might make them more comfortable.”

Latitude has added 500 additional seats to student dining facilities and caters for a campus community that represents students from 113 countries. 

Brady explained that his team believed the comfort of students relates to how well they do in school and how much stress they experience in their lives. 

This idea that the familiarity of food might contribute to the wellbeing of international students has been explored by academics. 

Masters student, Erika Stewin, who undertook research on “food insecurity issues among international students at two Canadian universities. 

Stewin found that “many students described experiencing food insecurity, students related feelings of depression, homesickness and identity loss, hunger, difficulties with weight loss or weight gain, and stories of being forced to compromise religious beliefs in order to eat.”

Brady told The PIE that the dining services team also wanted to offer new cuisines to students who weren’t familiar with other people’s culture. 

“We thought this might help them bridge the gap and build food as the centrepiece to build community within our campus,” he said. 

So far the dining facility has been very well received. Students have the ability to text real-time feedback and, according to Brady, so far the response has had nothing but complimentary. 

“We had one student reply saying that she was brought to tears by tasting something that reminded her of the holidays back home. 

“To me, that was what all this is about. We want to give our students that sense of comfort,” he said. 

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