Penn State Student, Makayla Tamborra, participates in the Food & Sustainability Studies Program at the Umbra Institute to learn the ins and outs of a sustainable food industry in Italy.
April 28, 2016
PERUGIA, Italy — “Everyone back home brags when they go organic, and that’s great because everyone should be natural and sustainable, but it should not be something you brag about, you should just do it,” said Penn State Hospitality Major Makayla Tamborra as she reflected on her experiences in the Umbra Institute’s Food Studies & Sustainability Program (FSSP), in Perugia, Italy. With years of restaurant experience, Makayla has a persistent focus on minimizing food waste, both in industry and at-home settings.
“In Italy, people do not think about being local or sustainable, that is just the way it is done,” said Makayla as she expressed what it is like to study sustainability in the Green Heart of Italy, the country’s central region of Umbria. In order to deepen her understanding of sustainability concepts within a food oriented context, Makayla took a number of opportunities this semester to tour multiple, family-run, organic wineries and cheese producers, a synergistic garden, and local farmers’ markets; all in order to witness every step of various food production processes. During the FSSP’s most recent field trip, she was able to learn how prosciutto is made, and compare its historical and modern production and consumption. The trip also consisted of a lesson on the lengthy production processes of traditional balsamic vinegar in Modena, and of Parmigiano-Reggiano in Parma. Makayla shared that her favorite aspect of the trip to Parma and Modena was the visit to the Parmigiano-Reggiano producers. “I just thought it was so cool how they produce small quantities every day but they still make tons of cheese. The producers have such a traditional style,” commented Makayla before she went on to describe how she learned that Parmigiano-Reggiano can actually be aged for two to three years.
Makayla recognizes that sustainability in Italy is not perfect, as she comments on their preference for bottled water over tap water and the taboo often associated with bringing food home from a sit-down restaurant. However, she does believe that Italian tradition influences a much more sustainable lifestyle. For example, the tradition of fresh ingredients and food shopping more than once a week caused Makayla to comment, “A lot of restaurants and even families, people back home, buy extra things that get thrown in the fridge or in the cabinet and forgotten about. Italians know what they need to buy and they don’t buy extra.” She then went on to describe the Italian recycling system that provides multiple trash bins, per household, that are represented by different colors that designate the purpose of each bin; whether it should be for compost, paper, plastic, glass, or generic trash.
In conclusion, Makayla shares, “I think that all businesses should have more sustainable practices and I think that, in the future, I can bring some more sustainability into the hospitality industry.”
About the Food & Sustainability Studies Program:
The Food & Sustainability Studies Program is an interdisciplinary curricular concentration at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. When participating in Umbra’s FSSP, students are required to enroll in two core courses and a relative elective. Core courses include: STFS 330: Sustainability and Food Production in Italy and HSIT 350: History and Culture of Food in Italy. Elective courses include: ANFS 370: The Anthropology of Food and BSFS 380: The Business of Wine: Italy and Beyond.
Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses. For more information about the Umbra Institute or its Food & Sustainability Studies Program, contact the associate director of the Program, Zachary Nowak (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also watch a short overview of the Program on YouTube.