Celebrating World Food Day at Harvard


Curried lentils served at Annenberg Dining Hall. Photo courtesy of Patrick Barham and Smitha Haneef

3 min read

On Sept. 23, the United Nations hosted the first-ever Food Systems Summit, which asked world leaders to re-assert their responsibility and commitment to making our food system sustainable. The U.N. outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals in pursuit of this work, which coalesce in World Food Day, a celebration of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. In 2021, World Food Day focuses on “better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.”

“World Food Day became the natural ‘launch party’ in my mind for HUDS to share its view with our broader campus of a sustainable food system,” said Smitha Haneef, who joined Harvard University Dining Services as managing director in April 2021. “We have an incredibly creative and passionate team. I knew Food Day could be an opportunity for my team to design and prepare climate friendly menus and experiences that celebrate the biodiversity of New England. And this creativity and collaboration would be the foundation that will help drive our program forward on this sustainability journey.”

HUDS will mark World Food Day with a series of events hosted by chefs across campus during the end of October. All start with the core tenant of climate-friendly, biodiverse menus — foods that have high nutrient value without resource-intensive inputs, sourced in a way that celebrates season, region and variety.

Undergraduate dining locations will feature pop-up, climate-friendly dishes, such as the curried lentils with coconut milk, barley, and tofu shared at Annenberg Dining Hall on Oct. 16.

On Oct. 20, General Manager Serie Demelo and her team at the Harvard Kennedy School will feature Guyanese recipes at lunch, which are the recipes Demelo said she grew up eating.

Executive Chef Andrew Urbanetti at the Harvard Law School will celebrate indigenous ingredients such as fresh fish and blue hubbard squash at lunch on Oct. 21-22. On both days, HUDS will also share information about the food donation program and volunteer opportunities both on and off campus.

On Oct. 26, Executive Chef Arlene Richburg at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will present specials including yellow split pea soup with cornmeal dumplings, salted cod buljol and a plantain chip.

“Growing up in Trinidad, the soup is a dish my mother will make and serve on a rainy Saturday or when there was very little left in the refrigerator,” Richburg said.

Also on Oct. 26, Mather House will feature a menu collaboration by Dunster and Mather Chef de Cuisine Donn Leonard and HKS Executive Chef Ernie Quinones. The duo designed a Latin-inspired menu that is almost entirely plant-based, and includes recipes passed down from Quinones’ mother and grandmother.

“In crafting these events for our campus, it was important to me to celebrate and expand on all the dimensions of diversity,” said Haneef. “Food is a marker of welcoming and hospitality, and I want us to extend that to everyone, from students to guests on our campus.”