Harvard doesn't have a food major, but many students still use food in their personal projects and extracurriculars. Students employ food to construct lessons on sustainability, develop tasty and scientific creations, and spread awareness about social and cultural issues. Here is a breakdown of some of the best food ideas and organizations to join at Harvard University.

1. Breaktime

Photo courtesy of Tony Shu

While working at Y2Y Harvard Square, a shelter for in transition youth run by Harvard students, Harvard undergraduates Tony Shu and Connor Schoen developed an idea to help homeless youth find jobs. In an interview with Spoon University, Shu recalled a conversation with a shelter guest that sparked more interest in the project. “A guest found a job, was working and was very happy to be working. He was saying that routine work and interaction with customers really did a lot for his mental health,” Shu said, “[However] we found out that for two days he missed work due to an emergency and was immediately laid off by the company.” After other emotional conversations with guests, Shu not only recognized the “barriers to finding a job as a young adult experiencing homelessness, but also the many challenges just to maintain [a job].”

In partnership with Union Square Donuts, Shu and Schoen decided to launch Breaktime, a cafe and bakery that will employ, train, and support homeless youth during their job search. Because of their wholesale partnership with Union Square Donuts, Breaktime's maintenance costs are low, which ensures that the cafe's workers receive reliable and fair wages. To prepare for their grand opening in September, the team has reached out to local nonprofits affiliated with the Harvard Graduate School of Education with strong vocational training programs.

In addition to developing strong partnerships with the Cambridge and Boston community, the duo has also launched a Go Fund Me campaign to galvanize supporters and encourage donations. Along with winning the 2018 Harvard College Innovation Challenge and the Harvard Innovation and Ventures in Education competition, their savvy business has also captured the attention of The Boston Globe, Eater, and the Harvard Crimson. While the shop won't officially open until early fall, people can get involved today by donating to the campaign, referring potential employees, or signing up as a future volunteer.

2. Science and Cooking Projects

There’s a good reason why Science and Cooking is one of the most popular classes at Harvard. Not only does this class fulfill the General-Education requirement for Science and Living Systems, students will learn and taste the science behind famous cooking techniques. Along with scientific inquiry and cooking lessons, the class features live cooking demonstrations on a weekly basis. World-renowned chefs including Corey Lee from Benu, Margarita Forés from Cibo, and Harvard alum Joanne Chang from Flour travel to the Harvard campus to share their stories and cooking philosophies.

At the end of the semester, students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge by pioneering their own food invention as a final project. This project pushes students to research and design novel cooking techniques for their classmates and teachers to taste and observe.

Curious about the impact of the class on students, I spoke to Simone Chu, a Harvard undergraduate, who took the class in Fall 2017. “Labs were really fun, and I really enjoyed how much creativity we got to put into our final projects,” Chu said in an interview with Spoon. As for her final project, she created a raindrop cake inspired by an encounter with a Japanese dessert: “Raindrop cakes are unique in that they’re clear like water. They also tend to melt easily and don’t tend to have much flavor to them, since you can put toppings on them. Ava and I tried experimenting with different amounts of agar and other modernist thickeners to see if we could make a raindrop cake that would hold its shape at room temperature for a long time.”

Fortunately, the Science and Cooking experience is becoming more accessible to the general public. Harvard plans to add a free online Science and Cooking class to its repository. In addition, the chefs that come to campus also give evening lectures for the general public. As the course continues to adapt and grow, students and the public will have a great chance to continue learning from these amazing chefs and apply science to their cooking!

3. Sake Kasu Research

The Science and Cooking class truly lives up to its reputation; it leaves a tremendous impact on more than just a couple students. After Harvard undergraduates Evan Liu and Jessica Scazzero took the class in Fall 2017, they became motivated to apply their skills and initiate their own independent food research project. 

At the end of the semester, Science and Cooking Preceptor Pia Sörensen introduced the two undergrads to a winter cooking course at the Basque Culinary Center in Spain. While both classes were taught mainly in Spanish, both Liu and Scazzero praised the intensive cooking lessons, especially learning in a foreign country, as a transformative experience. On top of this, the duo also had a chance to experience the demanding and lengthy chef schedule.

Photo courtesy of Evan Liu

Traveling to Spain inspired Liu and Scazzero to further develop their food science skills during the spring semester. As a side research project, they reached out to local Boston and Cambridge chefs for research ideas. After days of outreach, they finally sat down with chef-owner Tracy Chang of PAGU. Chang recommended that the duo dive into research about sake kasu, an ingredient Chang uses in her squid ink brioche roll. 

Over the course of the semester, Liu and Scazzero developed a fundamental understanding of fermentation and sake kasu, baking and cooking, and the science of yeast. They spoke to sake kasu brewer Todd Bellomy and other chefs experimenting with sake kasu in their cooking such as Phil Tang, Tom Whitten, and Peter Ungár.

Equipped with this new knowledge, they shared their findings with the Harvard community through a sake taste testing workshop in late Spring. Liu also had an opportunity to publish the sake kasu research findings on Edible Boston! This independent food project shows the possibilities of initiative and curiosity at Harvard after diving into the food and science realm. 

4. Food Literacy Project

The Harvard Food Literacy Project (FLP) has existed as a food culture and education hub for Harvard students since 2005. Run by 15 students with representatives from each house and freshman yard, the FLP promotes a diverse and interactive set of events including cooking lessons with famous chefs, dinners with food media professionals, and film and education classes with farmers and food suppliers. Most importantly, the FLP aims to educate Harvard students on the importance of making informed food choices as well as a diet's impact on the environment and their personal well being.

The Food Literacy Project also helps run the Harvard Farmer’s Market in the Science Center Plaza and the Harvard Community Garden. The undergraduate-run garden raises hundreds of pounds of locally grown produce and partners with Harvard University Dining Services, also known as HUDS.

Allison Pao, a current Food Literacy Project Fellow for Leverett House, speaks highly about her experience with the FLP. “As a self-professed 'foodie' I always thought I was conscious of my food choices – taste, texture, aesthetic, aroma, Instagram-worthy,” Pao said in an interview with Spoon University, “But it wasn’t until I became a Food Literacy Project fellow this past year that I learned that our food system involves so much more than what we see on our plates.”

Along with spearheading their own food events around campus, Allison and the other FLP Fellows learn about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, crop insurance, and other food sustainability and policy issues during weekly FLP meetings. FLP is a must-join organization for foodies, food educators, and food and science enthusiasts.

5. Spoon University

Want to be the next food author or reviewer? If you're interested, food lovers and writers unite at Harvard’s Spoon University chapter. While the chapter routinely publishes articles and videos about food culture in the United States, a majority of content centers around food culture at Harvard. The publication is currently headed by two Harvard undergraduates, Editorial Director Shelby Yuan and Marketing Director Sarah Wetzler.

In an interview with Spoon, Shelby talks about the importance of Spoon to her college experience: "I started reading Spoon articles when I was in high school, and writing for my future college's chapter (let alone being the editorial director) seemed like an illustrious goal. It's been amazing curating our chapter's content and exploring new restaurants, trends, recipes, and more, and writing about it for others to experience as well."

Some great articles written by current Harvard Students include Harvard Dining Hall Hacks, Best Coffee Shops for Studying in Cambridge, or even Why Avocados Are So Expensive and Ways to Get Them for Cheaper. If you’re interested in contributing to Harvard’s Spoon Chapter, it’s never too late to join! You will learn skills from writing to editing to photography to videography. Spoon offers many ways to dive into the food media world and publish pieces that the whole world can see

To keep up with Harvard's Spoon Chapter, follow us on Instagram at @spoon_harvard.