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'Great Carolina Cook-Off' aims raise awareness for food insecurity

Kristen Wagner, the co-chair of the event, paints on one of the blocks in the pit in hopes of publicizing for the The Great Carolina Cook-Off.
Kristen Wagner, the co-chair of the event, paints on one of the blocks in the pit in hopes of publicizing for the The Great Carolina Cook-Off.

“We wanted to bring all of these groups together to showcase that transition that’s occurring and show the rest of the campus at UNC that ‘Hey, look at all of this amazing stuff people are doing revolving around food,’” Kristen Wagner, co-chairperson of the event, said.

Wagner said the idea for the cook-off came about in the fall semester when Hope Gardens was looking for a fundraising mechanism that would raise a lot of money and be something the organization could do every year.

“It kind of just transformed into this coalition-building effort where we just started discovering and working with all of these different groups on campus that are working to promote things like food access, food insecurity,” Wagner said. “They’re doing sustainable agriculture, and we just realized this campus is super involved in this huge transition happening in Chapel Hill.”

At the start of the event, attendees will receive eight tickets and a token. One ticket can be exchanged for prepared food samples at each organization’s table. After tasting the food of all eight organizations and using all eight tickets, attendees will place the token in the jar on the table that featured their favorite food. The group with the most tokens in their jar at the end of the night will be the winner.

Adina Girmay, a global studies and food studies major, said she heard about the event through her professor, Molly De Marco, who will be speaking about food access and food insecurity in North Carolina at the event.

“I enjoy food, I am a food studies major, so it falls right into my area of interest,” she said. “I’ve always been really interested in cooking. It’s something I’ve enjoyed since I’ve been a kid, so this event kind of combines school and hobby.”

Girmay said she likes that the event is open to the entire school for anyone to come and judge, so the voting isn’t limited to a small population of students.

“I like the idea of the different food groups on campus competing, but still for fun and they all get to make their own food which should be good,” Girmay said. “Also, I am happy they’re going to give you enough tickets to sample all the different kinds of food and not just a certain amount.”

Carolina Cupboard vice chairperson of finances D’Angelo Gatewood said his organization is in the process of determining what kind of dish they want to present for the competition.

“I think the cook-off is great opportunity to interact with other food service organizations and to see who’s out there and have a great time and try to display our culinary skills while we’re at it,” he said.

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