Looking at Student Leaders: iFOO:D

I had the opportunity to talk to Momoka Goto and Yuka Maenaka, the co-presidents of iFOO:D. Momo and Yuka are both sophomore international students from Japan, and they created iFOO:D, whose mission is “to use food as a means of bridging together different cultural backgrounds and create a community where we embody the idea of bridge walkers.” They “want to create a space where everyone can come together and have the joy of learning about different cuisines without having a divide or wall between ethnic and racial backgrounds."

Her Campus: Thank you so much for meeting with me today. Why did you decide to start iFOO:D?

Yuka Maenaka: Whenever we went to events, there would only be international students, or if it was an event hosted by a Greek organization the people who mainly showed up were Greek-affiliated students. I noticed that there were divides in the groups of people who attended events. But even then, I saw that free food events attract a lot of people, regardless of the groups people are in. So I thought that food can overcome barriers between different races [and] groups of people.

Momoka Goto: More personally, the food options are pretty limited here, and we wanted to provide food of higher quality. I hope that we can serve as a bridge that can link different groups of people through food.

HC: What were the difficulties you faced when you made this club?

MG: Firstly, the whole process took too much time. Spring Break last year was when we thought of forming a group. We were able to get members last year, and we thought we were ready, but our first event finally happened this semester. It was difficult to cooperate with the school and the student government, so it did not go as smoothly as we had hoped. Also, the way student organizations have to be run changed, and we tried to make the group when the student government was having elections and changing members. So it was difficult to to maintain communication. Overall, the timing wasn’t ideal. Also, the plan we had was not as solid as they were expecting. We had to rethink why we wanted to form this group since we were at first focused too much on food. I am really glad, though, that we were able to collaborate with ISA, since it definitely was a good opportunity to get our name out there and was an important step in founding our group. In all, I wished the whole process was more efficient.

HC: I know you recently had an event where you made boba tea. How did that go?

YM: It was very successful. We were really happy since we had to make it happen. It took a lot of time and effort. We thought we would cry because so many people showed up, which was unexpected. We also went to Roy after the event and were able to reach out to others who would usually not show up to the events so that they could try the boba tea. I think, by reaching out, we were able to give students the opportunity to take the first step in understanding food of other cultures by trying it.

MG: I want to create more opportunities for people to take this first step, but it is difficult. I also thought that domestic students were not as interested in drinks compared to food, so I’m looking forward to our next event, Rice Paradise.

HC: What is Rice Paradise?

YM: it is an event that features different dishes made from rice, representing 5 countries.

MG: We decided on featuring different types of foods to show how diverse the dishes are and how different types of food can be made from just one ingredient—in this case, rice.

YM: We also want people to be able to [try] different cultures and new cuisines throughout the event.

HC: What can we expect from you next?

YM: One of our events is [a] tofu workshop. It will be our first workshop. We would like to cook with the participants and connect with new people but also strengthen bonds that already exist. Tofu is healthy and can transform into different dishes that can change depending on the way you cook it. It can be vegan and vegetarian, so its possibilities are endless. I also hope, that by allowing people to experience the process of cooking, to be able to realize and learn more about food.

MG: We also want to show that cooking is more accessible than it seems so that hopefully more people will enjoy and start cooking on their own.

HC: What do you hope for the organization to achieve in the long run?

YM: We want to make it bigger so that it gets recognized by the students on this campus and hopefully have influence. We also want to provide education about food, like how to eat healthy, food waste, and how food is related to quality of life so it can help improve people’s lives. We hope that more people will pay attention and consider the different aspects there are to food. I also want to make sure that iFOO:D continues after we graduate. Making a group is relatively easy, but it would be even better if we could make sure it is carried on.

MG: People are very busy at DePauw and tend to neglect food, so I hope we can spread awareness about how it is related to mental health and to make a positive impact on people’s lives through food.

HC: That sounds like it will be a big but rewarding goal. Thank you so much for your time!