Second annual Food Fair hosts local vendors

Tamara Wilson (left) and Michelle Singer-Nielsen (right) manage the Portland Roasting Coffee booth. The second annual Food Fair allowed students and community members to sample and take food from several vendors. 

Students, community members able to take home boxes of snacks, beverages

Dozens of businesses get publicity, Oregon State University staff scout out new food from vendors, messages of diversity are spread, students stuff bags and boxes full of free food and food industry staff enjoy being able to give back to the students.

The Memorial Union’s second annual MU Food Fair is an event that benefits vendors, students and the university. Companies that supply foods and beverages to different places on campus bring their products to the event. This year’s Food Fair took place Wednesday, May 24.

According to Robyn Jones, the Memorial Union retail food service director, the MU Food Fair serves purposes for both the managers and the students.

“We host the Food Fair for two reasons: one, to give students the opportunity to try products that we sell, and for the managers to see new products and gauge interest from the students to see if we want to bring in these new items,” Jones said.

According to Michelle Alaspa, sales associate for The Core Group, a broker that supplies many different brands to OSU, the fair begins with the vendors setting up their food. Initially, the fair is opened only to the managers of retail food services so they can come test different foods and decide whether or not it is a product that they want to purchase to sell at OSU.

Next, the event opens to students, according to Alaspa. Students can come and stock up on all the free food they want. At this year’s MU Food Fair, students came through the line of vendors with cardboard boxes and filled them to the brim with all the free food they could get their hands on. Along with food, there were also a variety of drinks available, including coffee, fruit juices and energy drinks.

According to Alaspa, the vendors love this event as much as the students and staff do. Alaspa loves the MU Food Fair because she gets to see people who are happy to eat their food and when they are happy eating their food, it makes her happy too.

“We look at this day as a day to give back,” Alaspa said. “We in the food industry are generally invisible, so this is a way for us to get out there and give back.”

For some vendors, this event is about more than just free food, publicity and giving back. For Michelle Singler-Nielson and Tamara Wilson at Portland Roasting Coffee, the supplier of coffee blends for OSU’s coffee shops, there was a message to spread. According to the flyers Singler-Nielson and Wilson were handing out, the company is changing the face of coffee by highlighting the diversity of their customers with their new campaign #everyonedrinkscoffee.

“Coffee is for everyone, and anyone is welcome at Portland Roasting Coffee,” Wilson said.

According to Jones, there are lots of different people that come together to make this event a reality, and she really enjoys how everyone works together to make this event happen and loves being able to give back to the students.

“We work with our distributors, vendors and food service reps who bring samples for the students and take time to come to Corvallis and talk to the students, and then my managers put their time and energy into working with the reps and making this event successful,” Jones said. “Of course it’s always fun to give stuff away and I love doing that for the students.”

For those who did not make it to the event, it may not be a full year before there is another food fair. According to Jones, there is a possibility that the event may be held in the fall of next schoolyear instead of spring. For more information on the MU Food Fair and other future events, visit the MU’s webpage.