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Brown Dining Services special events highlight student cultures, staff talent

Events foster community for students through food

<p>The Sharpe Refectory’s Feb. 23 Soul Food Night was a collaboration between the Brown Center for Students of Color and Dining Services.</p>

The Sharpe Refectory’s Feb. 23 Soul Food Night was a collaboration between the Brown Center for Students of Color and Dining Services.

When COVID-19 scattered University community members across the globe — and subsequently prevented in-person gatherings when people returned to College Hill — Brown Dining Services was forced to stop hosting its regular special themed events at dining halls across campus, according to Vice President of Dining Programs George Barboza.

This semester, Dining Services has revived its tradition of hosting special events, which have ranged from a March 17 St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Ivy Room to a Mardi Gras celebration late last month. 

“Compared to 2020 and early 2021, when COVID-19 restrictions did not allow us to host many in-person events, there are significantly more” special events at dining halls today, Barboza wrote in an email to The Herald.

For Barboza, these special dining events help foster a stronger community across campus. “Food has always been a way to bring people together,” he wrote. “This is just one way we make that happen.”

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According to Barboza, certain themed food nights can take months to plan. Smaller events take two to three weeks to organize and are often used as “a trial period for a new food or concept,” he wrote.

Andrews Chef Younes Haimoura found that themed events and Andrews Commons’ daily dinner specials help bring students’ cultures to campus. “For international students, we do the specials to make them feel” at home, he said.

“It’s a communication between us. We’re here as a family for you. If you need something, we can make it,” Haimoura said.

Some events have come about as collaborations between student groups and Dining Services. The Sharpe Refectory’s Feb. 23 Soul Food Night was organized in collaboration with Brown Center for Students of Color and has been hosted by Dining Services for the past 12 years as part of the BCSC’s Black Heritage Series, The Herald previously reported.

“These events, specifically the ones students are involved in, help the wider Brown community feel connected to the student group being highlighted,” Barboza wrote.

Alejandra Mineo-Levitsky ’26 said she has “enjoyed” the recent events. “It’s been a nice way to get a distraction from the stress of school.”

Beyond offering support to the student community, Haimoura said that themed food nights and specials also highlight the community that exists among dining staff.

“Sometimes we work days and nights planning something because we love what we’re doing,” Haimoura said.

Haimoura, who hails from Morocco, added that the Andrews dining team includes staff from Mexico, Brazil and the Dominican Republic, which helps bring new ideas to the dining halls menus every day.

“We are always looking to highlight our talented staff members and encourage student groups to reach out with ways we can collaborate on future events,” Barboza wrote.

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Earlier this semester, Andrews Commons hosted a Lunar New Year celebration spearheaded by Chef Hout Seng, The Herald previously reported.

“The line was actually going around all of Andrews,” Mineo said of the Lunar New Year celebration. “It was nice to see it bringing people together.”

“There are so many talented employees at Brown,” Haimoura added. “We all do this job and are proud doing it.”

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