Hilda Mulrooney


The global shift to online teaching and learning in response to the pandemic was potentially deleterious to sense of belonging and connection to the institution. Food is important in all cultures and has multiple functions, including making connections and welcoming others, in addition to specific cultural and religious meanings. The Cultural Food Stories project, a recipe and story sharing initiative, aimed to explore whether food could be used to enhance feelings of belonging within a higher education institution during the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff and students at a large widening participation university were invited to share a personally meaningful recipe as well as the story of why the recipe mattered. In addition, participants completed a short demographics questionnaire, including levels of agreement with statements on belonging derived from the literature. Optional online interviews were held. A total of 45 participants contributed 49 recipes and stories, and 12 online interviews were held. Participation increased sense of belonging in 73.8% of participants with no differences by demographic characteristics. Recipe stories commonly evoked people, places and emotions, maintaining connections through physical separation. This small project suggests that food may be used as a mechanism to enhance sense of belonging within higher education.