People care about food now more than ever, but college is still known as the place where good food goes to die,” says Mackenzie Barth, co-founder of Spoon University, in a three-minute, professionally shot video outlining the website’s conception. She and her co-founder Sarah Adler tell us that college students don’t actually need to gain the freshman fifteen, or subsist on two-dollar ramen noodles for four years of their lives. There is another way—and Spoon University, their online food publication, can help students find it.
In just under a year, Spoon University grew into a national network, amassing over 1000 student contributors from new chapters at campuses across the country. Today, Spoon University has local chapters at over 45 colleges—and, thanks to Sarah Strong, BK ’16, Yale will be next.
Barth and Adler, two Northwestern juniors, started Spoon in 2012, hoping to create a casual on-campus forum for talking about food. After printing one magazine, they decided to move Spoon completely online. The site looks like BuzzFeed for all things aliment—the content is image-driven and the articles are short-form and timely. They cover everything from dining hall hacks to two-ingredient recipes, opinion articles on food porn, and breaking news on Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream.
Each chapter publishes localized content on its own tab, which is placed next to the five other main sections: Cook, Live, Learn, Drink, and Study Abroad. Only national contributors, who apply to Spoon separately, write for the main site, while writers from individual chapters remain functionally separate. Still, all readers and contributors enter into the same national network of students discussing, cooking, photographing, and talking about food.
Strong is bringing Spoon University onto a campus that she believes already has a “great food culture.” Together with Photography Director Jennifer Lu, BK ’16, and Marketing Director Tevin Mickens, TC ’18, Strong will select the rest of the editorial team by the end of this week. She hopes to sign on a new group of Yale students as writers, editors, photographers, videographers, and marketers. The group will then undergo an interactive online training by the national organization, and begin to publish content on its own Yale-specific site.
For the time being, only members of the editorial team will provide content, but Tevin is quick to emphasize that Spoon will incorporate ideas, stories, and reviews from students who are not on the editorial board. He also says the organization plans to host culinary-themed events open to the entire community.
As for the online platform, Tevin foresees Spoon’s social media-friendly format fitting well into existing gaps within Yale’s current food-related outlets. Spoon combines long and blog-form prose, images, videos, quizzes, and even national contests and giveaways under one cohesive platform. Time-sensitive articles range from opinion pieces on health news to methods of incorporating more pumpkin into our fall diets. Pieces on topics ranging from freezer hacks to eating on a budget won’t mention truffle oil or gourmet anything. Unlike long-form “foodie”-friendly pieces, the content of Spoon is meant to engage students of all skill and interest levels. “Spoon is relatable to the average college student,” Tevin explained, as more students might be inclined to read about a Berkeley-specific dining hall hack than a review of a fancy new restaurant in town. Spoon’s Instagram is just a click away on the homepage, and reposts students’ foodstagrams tagged with #spoonfeed from across the country.
Yale’s Spoon chapter has the backing of a national network, allowing it to launch with a strong foundation. This seems particularly important at a time when Yale’s existing food publications—the Epicurean, a more “foodie”-friendly publication, and student blogs including the review-centric Chew Haven—are in transitional phases, with unknown futures.
Lucas Sin, DC ‘15, believes bringing Spoon to campus is an important way to keep “our campus’s food community diverse.” Sin, co-editor in chief of the Epicurean and mastermind behind Yale Pop-Up, explains that the Epicurean transitioned last year from a gastronomic magazine to a food society. It now focuses on sponsoring events, partnering with local restaurants, and organizing food-oriented trips (such as this past summer’s trip to southern France), and has transitioned from print to exclusively online content.
That switch marked the end of any print food publications on campus. With the Epicurean’s future up in the air, and Chew Haven’s review-only content, Spoon seems poised to become our campus’ all-encompassing publication for people who love to eat, and talk, about food.
“Food is more than just what we need in between classes—it is becoming a bigger part of our culture, with the Yale Sustainable Food Project, and Master’s Teas with really cool chefs and individuals in the food industry,” Strong said. She sees inherent value in talking and thinking about what, and why, we are eating. This is what “eating intelligently” means to her, she said, and what she hopes to convey through the content in Spoon.
There lies a gap between students’ old, home-cooked habits and the horizons of independent culinary life. Somewhere between lies Spoon—a platform meant to ease the transition, make it fun and unfrightening, and offer a little digital spice to foodies and non-foodies alike.
–Graphic by Alex Swanson