International Students Build Bridges with Food

January 19, 2016

SFU international students gathered on Jan. 19 to cook a big meal together and make new friends.

The Community Cooking Workshop, one of a series organized by Peer Health Educators, an SFU student volunteer group,  aims to inspire collaboration and meaningful social connection among participants.

“Food is a wonderful tool for transcending cultural barriers,” says Crystal Hutchinson, an SFU Health and Counselling health promotion specialist. 

She says international students, who are far from home and may experience language barriers among their peers, can feel stressed and isolated.

“These workshops are a vehicle for fostering a supportive and connected community for international students at SFU. We have observed students meeting new people, exchanging contact information and building friendships and skills that extend beyond the workshops.”

The Peer Health Educators hold activites across all three campuses that relate to sexual health, de-stressing, sexual education, and helping students build social skills.

A mini grant was awarded by the provincial health ministry to SFU Health Promotion in 2015 through their involvement in the Canadian Mental Health Association's Changing the Culture of Substance Use (CCSU) project, within the BC Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses initiative. The goal of this project is for post-secondary students in British Columbia to experience and exhibit healthy relationships with substances, including food, within the context of a healthy campus culture.

Hutchinson says due to the workshops’ success, she is hopeful the local community will provide enough support to continue the workshops in much the same capacity as before. 

“The groceries are donated by Nesters Market, and we have a lot of support from community members to keep the workshops running,” she says.