International Food Festival: A Spoonful of Culture
For the other high schools in Houston, Thursday, February 26, was just a regular school day. Nothing out of the ordinary: classes, lunch, sports practices, theater rehearsals. A typical Thursday. But over in Sharpstown, the day started with the St. Agnes parking lot fuller than usual and parents and students bustling in and out the glass rotunda, all holding carrying stacks and stacks of aluminum trays. Inside? What aluminum trays hold best—food.
Once a year, St. Agnes organizes a school-wide luncheon called International Food Fest, or IFF, where students bring dishes from their culture or a culture they appreciate to share with the school during lunch. It is a highly anticipated day in the year for students to share the food they love and to try new foods from different cultures. The tradition has been part of St. Agnes for years but originated with Georgia Skopal. Skopal, Campus Minister years ago, was responsible for organizing a school-wide event once a year. As she pondered what to do for this event, she was inspired when teaching the course on Catholic Social Teaching. She dwelled over the class’s central theme: human dignity and Jesus’ second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we love our neighbor if we do not know them, Skopal wondered. After further reflection, she proposed hosting an event to learn about the lives, customs, and food of St. Agnes. This contemplation was the beginning of International Food Fest.
Now, IFF has evolved into something grand. Students begin signing up as early as January to help with this beloved luncheon by bringing their favorite meals or volunteering to set up the event. And, of course, students were quick to do so with early sign-up incentives like being entered in drawings for Fandango, Tapioca House, and Lululemon gift cards. The global feast takes place in the gym, which quickly crowds up with European, Latin American, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, North American, African, and Asian cuisine—the food ranging from Greek pastitsio to Brazilian pao de queijo. The next room over, waiting in the cafeteria, are tables piled with sweets from countries all over: baklava, pineapple halwa, tres leches, and more.
Lunch ends the same every year, with trays empty and students full of food.
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