Western Sydney University students are connecting every week over home cooked meals

A community dinner initiative at Western Sydney University is bringing students together to connect with their peers in a relaxed social environment over a nourishing meal.

The dinners, held once a week across five of the University’s campuses, are made possible through a combination of support from the community volunteers and organisations as well as Western’s own students and staff.

Since the return of face-to-face learning up to 300 students have come together each week across the campuses to enjoy hearty soups, pizzas and home cooking.

Daniel Jantos, Inclusive Communities Coordinator, encourages the need for social connection as an integral part of student life, especially following the impacts of the pandemic.

“The dinners are one way to unequivocally say, we are back, campus is open, it’s a vibrant place to be,” said Mr Jantos.

“It is strictly about building a strong sense of community among us here at Western, in all the richness of our diversity and variety.”

The event has been well received among students and is known for providing a pleasant environment and opportunity to connect with one another over a nutritious meal. The meals are always inclusive, catering to different religious, dietary and cultural requirements, such as ensuring they are halal and that vegetarian options are available.

Jen Alford, who studies a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours Pathway), said that there is a real feeling of family and sense of community to these dinners.

“I feel a sense of purpose when I’m cooking for others so volunteering at the dinners is a natural fit. The food is always nutritious and tasty and the company is always fun,” said Jen.

“It may seem corny or cheesy but it really is a highlight of my week.”

Another student, James Seager, who studies a Bachelor of Information Communication Technology (ICT), frequently attends the Kingswood dinners and relishes in the opportunity to try new cuisines while also meeting new people.

“It invites students to come out and socialise, destress and hear about the experiences of other students and residents of the villages,” said James.

“This amazing initiative plays a big role in the positive welfare of students and hopefully it can continue for a long time.”

Despite not being able to gather for an in-person meal during the pandemic, the initiative pivoted to virtual cooking lessons to ensure there was an opportunity for students to allocate time to creating a nutritious meal and connect with one another.

Students also came together to create a cookbook that contains recipes from different cuisines and backgrounds that was shared among the University community during the 2021 virtual cooking and community table series.

While the meals are provided weekly across the campuses there are also unique opportunities to celebrate and come together for meals on special occasions at the Parramatta South campus.

This was the evolution of the welcome dinners that were hosted by the International Student Collective, identifying a unique need to support those in more individualised circumstances. Recently, Sri Lankan students were encouraged to attend a dinner of support and solidarity with access to a meal, grocery hampers and welfare services, to ensure those who may be finding it especially hard right now are able to access support.

For more information about the dinners, visit the Inclusive Communities page. (opens in a new window) To download the cookbook, visit Community Kitchen Cookbook. (opens in a new window)

ENDS

17 June 2022

Lauren Austin, Media Officer

Photo credit: Will Goodwin