COVID-19 halted the event, but this semester’s students got the opportunity to attend and vote on some of their favorites which could be added to the permanent menu.
The event was in Meridian Ballroom on Oct. 13, with stalls from many different food manufacturers such as Rich Products, which provided baked food at the event.
James Hill works for Rich Products and was attending the event as one of the vendors.
“I’ve been coming here for around eight years supporting the students and sampling the new item, which is donut holes today,” Hill said. “We currently sell about 10 items to the university here, and today they’re voting on the items they like.”
Hill made enough samples for 1,200 people and said that the event usually goes a little over a 1,000 in attendance.
Melissa McEldowney, associate director for Dining Services, discussed in further detail the amount of people at the event as well as which companies were in attendance.
“Between 1,200 and 1,700 [show up] between a three-hour period,” McEldowney said. “We have 16 stands with different vendors that we procure products from. A lot of them are through GFS [Gordon Food Service], where we buy our bulk food from, however we do have other companies. We have rootberry in, which is a local St. Louis plant-based company; a completely vegan company.”
McEldowney took over doing Taste of SIUE in 2010. Slowly, the event has grown to its current size.
“When I [took over], it was in the middle of Center Court, we had maybe 300 people. We moved it to the back of Center Court, and we could get 600 people. In 2016 or 2015, we moved it to the Ballroom and that was when we could start getting much larger crowds through,” McEldowney said.
The top three booths with the most votes will have their items added to areas within dining services for the Spring semester. In attendance were companies such as Tyson, Pepsi and General Mills. Walking through the crowd was a Twix Bunny, who took photos with visitors.
“There’s General Mills, Rich’s, Tyson, Hormel, Pepsi is here with Gatorade as well,” McEldowney said.
McEldowney also said that an East St. Louis charter school arrived at the event 30 minutes prior to opening to get a tour of the event.
“We love how many people from the SIUE community come. People from the outside community also come and we love the feedback we get and the interactions we have. Dining services is proud of this event, and I want to personally say thank you to our entire staff that put this together and thank you to all the vendors who came,” McEldowney said.
Jack London was another vendor at the event. He expressed his happiness about the event’s return post-COVID.
“The event is very nice and busy,” London said. “It’s been a couple years without doing it, so I’m glad to be back to it and being back in front of the students. They're getting a chance to see different plant-based options and it’s always a good time to come out to Edwardsville and get in-person feedback right then and there. It’s been a great event thus far.”
A spin-the-wheel was set up at the Ballroom’s exit. Participants could spin the wheel and either immediately receive an item from a nearby table such as water bottles and clothing, or have their name entered into a drawing for much larger items such as a T.V.