Sparks Magazine Online
AKM Food Festival Maintains Attendance Despite Venue Change

AKM Food Festival Maintains Attendance Despite Venue Change

Asian Kaleidoscope Month (AKM) hosted its annual food festival on Oct. 16th at the Gator Wesley Foundation.

This event showcased Asian cuisine from 10 different cultural organizations at the University of Florida each representing a different country.

“We wanted a laid-back atmosphere,” said Ben Ingham, one of the co-directors of the food festival. “We wanted to give it the vibe of a dinner party … when you walk in, there’s music playing, and it’s like a giant social.”

Photo by Tho Tran

AKM, a program under the Asian American Student Union (AASU), hosts many events throughout October to celebrate Asian American culture and contributions. The food festival is traditionally one of the most well-attended AKM events with around 500 to 800 people each year.  

However, this year the turnout was expected to be slightly lower because of a last-minute venue change from the Florida Gym to the Gator Wesley Foundation. UF enacted a new rule where all food on campus must be catered from a list of approved restaurants. When notified of this change, AKM decided to have the event off campus. This year’s event was attended by about 500 people.

Photo by Ashley Leong

“The overarching goal is definitely to express Asian and Asian American awareness,” said Megan Wong, executive director of AKM. “We do that by having very innovative programming, workshops and panels, entertainment shows and even field day activities.”

Along with serving food, many organizations had booths with interactive cultural games. The Korean Undergraduate Student Association (KUSA) had a booth with the game Ddakji, which is a traditional Korean game played using folded origami paper.

Michael Ho, a volunteer who represented KUSA at the event, said that the goal of KUSA’s involvement at AKM is to spread a new perspective on Korean culture.

“You have to realize that there’s other things in our culture besides K-Pop,” Ho said.

Photo by Tho Tran

Other organizations present at the event included the Chinese American Student Association, Filipino Student Association and the Indian Student Association.

The Indian Student Association (ISA) promoted their culture by doing henna at their booth. Henna is a traditional form of body art that is used in celebrations and rites of passages.

Suma Gangidi, vice president of ISA, said that the food festival is one of her favorite events.

“The food gives it a different aspect, and it’s something to bond over.” Gangidi said. “It’s a more personal story because you also get to ask questions and play games and do activities.”

Photo by Ashley Leong

In addition to cultural organizations, there were also pre-professional organizations at the event such as Health Educated Asian Leaders (HEAL). HEAL chose to represent Thailand for the second time at the food festival since the organization is not affiliated with any specific Asian country.

Rebekah Kim, president of HEAL, thought it was important to have a community of individuals with whom students could relate to and look up to in their career field.

Photo by Ashley Leong

She said the sense of community created by AKM and the food festival is important, and that it’s nice to have a support network in your personal life and career.

“Even though people are coming [to this event] for free food, they end up learning a lot more than just that,” Wong said.

 

Written by Megan Palm and Maya Punjwani.

Photos by Ashley Leong and Tho Tran.