My STEP Signature Project was a nutritional road trip conducted in three of the fastest growing cities in the United States; Phoenix, Chicago, and Columbus during the summer of 2017. I wanted to discover these communities with a nutritional lens to compliment my future career path of a Physician Assistant specializing in nutrition by documenting various foods, the cost and nutritional value from the diverse cultures within each community. I explored the variety of cultures in each of these communities and the types of food offered, document how it is promoted and its nutritional value and the prices.
These project opened me up to so many new experiences and to try various types of food. I met many people who were not born in the United States and had strong ethnic identities and I learned so much about various cultures through this project. This is truly an expanding experience for me because I am from a very small town in central Ohio that only has 2,000 people in it. To put that in perspective: Smith-Steeb and Park-Stradley could hold my whole town essentially. There was not much diversity and I’ve had limited experience traveling before coming to Ohio State.
While completing this project I went to various restaurants all over these cities in highly ethnic areas and tried so many new foods. I also stayed with a Hispanic family when I was in Phoenix and an Indian family when I was in Chicago and had home cooked meals as well. It was amazing to immerse myself in these cultures and open myself up to try these many new things and discover how much differentiation there is between what kinds of food and proteins that each culture prefers and consumes most. Further research gave me a better understanding about the health statistics of each of these minorities.
When I was in Phoenix I stayed with a lively Hispanic family. Its my best friend’s husband’s family so I have stayed with them previously. My favorite food that they make when I visit is their grandma’s green corn tamales which is so rare to find at other restaurants and stores. Besides Mexican food I also conducted my study on other high population minorities such as Colombian, Mediterranean, and Italian. As a disclosure I would like to say that every restaurant I went to was locally owned or only located in that central area of each state. My project focused on truly authentic restaurants to get the full culture experience. There was a language barrier ordering off of menus that were not English and staff that spook little English but the food was a better representation; and the crowd that these restaurants drew in were mostly their ethnicity which was highly relevant to my study.
When I was in Chicago I stayed with my Indian friend and her family. Her mother made home cooked meals including Dosa, Sambar, and Chutney . But Chicago is a highly diverse city which allowed me to try many different cultures. One of the nights I stayed in the Loop and we traveled to some of the neighboring subdivisions including Greek Town, and China Town. I also ate at the first Italian restaurant that was ever opened in Chicago called The Village and it is still only located in Chicago. Once returning to Columbus I finished my project here but eating at the local New Taj Mahal ran by a local Indian family on High street and Lavash Cafe which is locally owned in Columbus.
These experiences along with additional research about minority health statistics give me a very in-depth understanding about different cultures and compliments my future career path. I intend to become a dietitian to gain health care experience and then move to a Physicians Assistants graduate program in which upon getting my certification I will work towards specializing in Nutrition. It has also helped me personally in gaining diverse experiences and immersing myself in other cultures in ways that my upbringing has limited me to.