Serving More Than Food (English)


Across SF State’s campus are multiple different coffee shops, food stands and food court eating areas where students congregate daily. But who keeps these stands running, and what is the impact of their services? On this episode of The Bleed, Eian Gil speaks with students and food service workers on campus about the importance of these spaces and the community they provide SF State’s student population. The Bleed is a podcast for Xpress Magazine.

Para oir este podcast en Espanol, oprime aquí                                 To listen to this podcast in Spanish, click here

Eian Gil: If you’re like me, and pretty much every other student on campus, coffee is something you can’t go a day without. I usually like to get my fix at the bagel stand on 19th and Holloway – I go there every morning. To be completely honest though, the coffee’s just okay. The real reason I go there so often is the connection I have with its employees. 

You may have noticed that food workers on campus are primarily Latinx people. While that’s not entirely shocking given how the huge latinx student population at SFSU is, around 37% if you’re wondering, it did make me want to know more that dynamic between latinx students and food workers. 

I identify as Latino & Hispanic. I’m also a transfer student, and because of that, I’m pretty far away from my family, which means opportunities to speak Spanish are few and far between.

Eian Gil: But that little bagel stand by the bus stop has sort of become my safe space — where Cristian Ortega takes my order every morning, and Evelia Hernandex occasionally slides me a donut for free of charge. 

I’ve found a latinx community of pride and support here at SFSU, and I wanted to know: do other latinx students feel the same way? And if so, how has that community contributed to making our daily lives just a little bit better? 

I’m Eian Gil, and you’re listening to the Bleed. 

My first stop to answer my questions was the Latinx student center on campus, where I was welcomed with open arms by Emmauel Padilla, the center’s director. The center is almost never empty, and lively to say the least. We had a chat in his office, where he filled me in on the types of students he sees in the center, and what they’re looking for. 

Emmanuel Padilla: “I think the biggest thing is that they’re looking for, and it’s weird to say it, but visibility. They want to find community, and I think what it boils down to, is they want to be noticed. In any shape of that way. As in, ‘hey how are you doing nice to see you,’ or ‘I see you working over there printing stuff out.’ I think little things like service workers, or facilities workers and professors and staff, just seeing identities represented creates a comfort and an ownership of their college experience – of a student’s college experience.”

Eian Gil:  Padilla also described a situation similar to mine, where he left home to go to school, and struggled with feelings of guilt for leaving his family behind – even though it was for a good reason. He agreed that it’s important to stop, take a breather, and seek out that community you might be missing to help manage your feelings. 

Emmanuel Padilla: “Cuando me fui de San Francisco a Davis, que es una hora y media, me sentí tan mal. Como que hice algo malo, como si me voy a la cárcel porque deje a mi familia. Me sentí muy guilty, como ‘Que persona soy? Dejé a mi familia, debo de trabajar.’ Estamos rompiendo la cosa de nuestra cultura que es que tenemos que trabajar, tener familia, tener casa – pero esta cosa que estamos haciendo nos pone el pensamiento que tenemos que ser eso, tenemos que serlo…pero a veces tenemos que parar eso, y como usted dijo, platicar y encontrar ese forma de comunidad.”

Quote above translated from Spanish to English

Emmanuel Padilla: “When I left from San Francisco to Davis, which are an hour and a half apart, I felt so bad. Like I did something horrible, like I’d go to jail because I left my family. I felt so guilty, like ‘what kind of person am I? I left my family, I should be working.’ We’re breaking that part of our culture that says we have to work, have a family, have a house – but this thing that we’re doing puts it in our minds that we have to do it…but sometimes we need to stop, and like you said, talk and find that form of community.”

Eian Gil: After speaking with Padilla, I left his office and was greeted by five students outside relaxing in the lounge area, enjoying themselves. I took the opportunity to ask their opinions on the subject, and was lucky enough to hear from Nuemy Perdomo, who happens to be the ethnic studies representative on the Associated Students board of directors. 

According to her, what latinx students ask for the most aside from general funding for programs, is safe spaces on campus, and ways to find that “niche” of community that they’re missing. 

She filled me in on what the center has done for her, and how important a sense of community on campus can be. 

Nuemy Perdomo: “Cuando yo llegué aquí, a San Francisco State, si había – pero no había un centro. Era otro, era más como una organización. Pero ya mirando que tenemos este centro, me siente como que estuviera en casa, porque todo lo que está acá adentro es cultura. Cosas que yo crecí. Me trae muchas memorias de cuando estaba chiquita.”

Quote above translated from Spanish to English

Nuemy Perdomo: “When I first got here, at San Francisco State, there was – but there wasn’t a center. It was something else, like an organization. But looking at the center now, it feels like I’m at home, because everything that’s inside is culture. Things that I grew up with. It brings back a lot of memories from when I was little.”

Eian Gil: I also spoke with Nick Martinez Reyes, who like me, pretty much only speaks Spanish to the food workers on campus. 

Nick Martinez Reyes: “I think you have to look for that community. As a latino, it’s not just there like it is for other communities I feel like. But once you get more into it and you find a place, you slowly realize how big it is. Like you were saying with food workers, one of the things is like, I’m always talking to them in Spanish – and I really enjoy that because they’re the only adults that I speak to in Spanish now.”

Eian Gil: They also described a moment they shared with a food worker. 

Nick Martinez Reyes: “I’ve had a conversation with one of them, I can’t remember her name, but she works with Taqueria [Girasol] and was saying to keep on going because we are the ones to further our communities. It’s great to have that encouragement because sometimes it does feel like you’re just stuck.”

Eian Gil: I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak a bit more on the bagel stand employees I see almost every morning. I wanted to hear what they had to say on the matter, and let them know how important their presence is to us latinx students – so I asked Evelia to call me up once she got off of work. 

Evelia’s been working on SFSU’s campus for around 16 years now, and she told me that she really loves her job. A big reason for that is her schedule that coordinates with the ones of her three kids, along with the interactions she has with students everyday. 

We ended up having a pretty long conversation, just talking about her day-to-day and how she also benefits from the connections she makes with students, who she says sometimes stop by just to say hi, regardless of what’s on the menu. 

Evelia Hernandez: “Te voy a decir una cosa, a mi me gusta estar en la caja, no por mucho tiempo verdad, pero me gustar estar en la caja porque me gusta platicar con estudiantes. Como que se sienten cómodos en un lugar donde los atienden bien. Y más que nada, pues verdad, que se identifica uno con ellos, y ellos con uno por ser hispanos. Van de todos tipos de estudiantes, Chino, Asiáticos, Gueros, Latinos…de todo va. Y a mi me gusta porque ellos van diario con esta motivación de ir a la escuela, me gusta hacer sentir bien a los estudiantes, de verdad.”

Quote above translated from Spanish to English

Evelia Hernandez: “Let me tell you something, I like working the register, not for too long to tell you the truth, but I like it because I enjoy talking with students. It’s like they feel comfortable visiting a place where they’re treated nicely and above all else, of course, where they identify with us, and we identify with them as hispanics. All types of students visit the stand, Asian, White, Latino. I like it because they come everyday with the motivation to go to school. I like making students feel good, to tell you the truth.”

Eian Gil: The relationship between latinx food workers on campus and the general latinx student population is one that isn’t always noticeable. But delving into the community, it really became clear to me that it’s a tight knit one – a sort of mutually beneficial relationship that makes the days of everyone involved just a little bit brighter. 

I’m Eian Gil, and you’ve been listening to the Bleed, with the song, “rose” courtesy of LukemBro on Youtube.

Thanks again to Emmanuel, Neumy, Nick & Evelia for helping make this happen.