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Erica Sloan (2017)

Meet Erica Sloan, this week’s Campus Celeb. Erica is currently Editor-in-chief and President of Wash U’s Spoon University chapter, a website dedicated to helping students eat intelligently through articles ranging from finding great local restaurants to navigating dorm food on campus.  Beyond Spoon University, Erica is also currently working with two other students on a project for The Clinton Global Initiative that was founded to convene leaders and implement innovative solutions for today’s pressing challengers. Read on to learn more about Erica and her great work on and off campus!

Hometown: Boca Raton, FL

Major/minor: Political Science major, Writing minor

On-campus involvement: Spoon University, Delta Gamma, Campus Y, Student Life, Sigma Iota Rho and Washington University Student Associate.

How and when did you first get involved with Spoon? Last year, in my search for summer internships in New York City, I came across Spoon University’s application for an editorial intern. Oddly enough, I wasn’t in the Spoon chapter at Wash U at the time, but my interest was piqued because I plan on a future career in journalism and have always been a foodie. I sent in my application, along with a couple other apps for communications-based internships in the city. Upon receiving a positive response from one of the co-founders, Mackenzie, I let her know that I would be in New York City over my spring break to potentially meet her in person for an interview. I think this was the deciding factor for me receiving the internship, as we bonded over coffee and scones at The Bean coffee shop in mid-town. The 6 other editorial and marketing interns were all highly involved with their school’s Spoon chapters at the time, so it was a constant joke throughout the summer of whether I would choose to actually join Wash U’s chapter once I got back to school. Of course, I did and now I’m hooked.

Have you always been interested in cooking/food? My interest in food actually started in a sort of negative light, since I had the typical load of body image issues as a ballet dancer.  When I was 15, I moved away from home to attend a residential high school program for the performing arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. While this environment was conducive to focusing on my ballet training at a professional level, it was also highly competitive, causing many of us to develop a detrimental relationship with food. In college, my focus on food became more positive as I got creative with what healthy yet still delicious dishes I could make for myself out of the various DUC and BD stations. And of course, I’ve always had a huge sweet tooth so I definitely started letting myself splurge more often, especially during midterms and finals. Although I love trying interesting foods at restaurants and especially exploring the underrated great St. Louis restaurant scene, I’ve never actually been a very good cook. I probably shouldn’t be saying this because of my involvement with Spoon, but next year, when I have my own kitchen for the first time, I plan to improve my cooking skills.

What are your responsibilities as Editor-in-chief? As Editor in chief, I work with writers to come up with creative article ideas and then edit and publish their articles to our website. I also serve as Chapter President, working with the Business Director to market Spoon, plan campus-wide events and manage social media. 

What is your favorite part about the role? About Spoon in general? My favorite part of Spoon is definitely its mission to be a complete food resource for college students, as well as the driving force behind it. I have so much admiration for the two co-founders, Mackenzie and Sarah, with whom I had the pleasure of working for this summer, and their incredible dedication to starting a business from the ground up and running with it. It is incredible to witness the thought process and effort behind every addition to Spoon’s website, expansion to another school and partnership with another new organization, like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Tastemade just to name a few. I love being a part of something that is coming from such a whole-hearted and genuine place and being able to watch it grow. 

What is your favorite restaurant in STL? This is such a hard question, but I would have to go with Mango, a vibrant Peruvian restaurant downtown. At first, I was skeptical of Peruvian food, since it’s not a cuisine you see everyday, but I fell in love with it when I first went to the restaurant for a friend’s birthday last year.  It is an interesting cross between Spanish, Italian and French cuisines due to the influences of various waves of immigration. I ordered the Tallarines Verdes or “green noodles,” which is a Peruvian take on pesto, brought to Peru from immigrants of Liguria, the city in Italy where pesto was first created. Through an infusion of local Peruvian flavors, like queso fresco and walnuts, Tallarines Verdes reaches a new level of creamy deliciousness not often found in the Italian version.  

What are your goals for Wash U’s chapter? As Wash U’s chapter becomes more established on campus, I hope that we can form partnerships with other student groups. This will allow us to become an all-around resource for anything food-related on campus, which is the ultimate goal. While the foundation of Spoon is the website, the idea is for Spoon to become a broader platform for discussions and events involving food on campus.  We’re breaking down the stereotype that college kids don’t care about food or only eat microwaved Ramen and hamburgers and providing students with the resources to actually enjoy their meals.

I heard you’re also currently co-working on a project for The Clinton Global Health Initiative. Can you tell me about that? In November, I began working with two other students, Samantha Pitz and Jessica Thea, to develop a commitment to action for the Clinton Global Initiative University conference this spring.  I was hooked on the idea of submitting a project after hearing Sammi’s discussion of food deserts in St. Louis (yes, of course the project involves food), defined by the FDA as urban areas where grocery stores are unavailable and the only source of food is corner bodegas, which often do not stock fresh produce or any real variety of healthful choices. We began thinking about starting urban farm plots in the underserved areas and came into contact with the International Institute, an organization that services immigrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, helping them to successfully transition to their American lives.

We have since decided to add an element of cultural exchange to the Institute’s existent Global Farms Initiative program, which includes two farms where new Americans can grow their own produce.  Next semester, we will be creating a student group called Cultivating Connections, through which we will farm alongside the new Americans, developing a mutually beneficial relationship where we gain an understanding of their needs, as well as provide them with the tools to successfully enter the American market. Through a dinner-fundraiser, we will spread awareness on campus of this often overlooked community of immigrants and refugees, and further integrate the Washington University student body with the greater St. Louis area.  The conference is next weekend and we have since been entered into a fundraising competition with 15 other teams.

 

To read more about Erica and her team’s cause or donate, visit their CrowdRise page: https://www.crowdrise.com/CultivatingConnections

To check out Wash U.’s Spoon chapter, visit: washu.spoonuniversity.com.

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