Athletes want 'hard food' at Penn Relays - Chicken, yam and dumplings goes over well with regional athletes in USA
Strong Jamaican foods such as yam, green bananas and fried dumplings, along with stew chicken are favourites among Jamaicans students participating at the annual Penn Relays, held annually at Franklin Field Pennsylvania, United States.
However, Team Jamaica Bickle, the non-profit organisation of Jamaicans in the diaspora that provides assistance to the athletes, said that participants from other Caribbean countries are giving the Jamaicans a run for their money, getting to the food first.
"I live in the USA, but I try to come to Jamaica at least three to four times per year. I learnt that bread is not served for breakfast. So when they come to Penn Relays, they want yam, green bananas, fried dumplings, and stew chicken. They want hard food," said Howard Hylton, the team member responsible for coordinating food for the athletes participating in the relays.
Already there is fascination with yam from Trelawny, which has been touted as one of the reasons for the phenomenal success of Jamaican athletes, the international level, especially retired sprint sensation Usain Bolt, as well as Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Speaking at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, Hylton said students from other territories fell in love with Jamaican food, as well as White college 'kids'. The Jamaica students, he said, asked for, "food in the morning for breakfast, something light for lunch, and food again in the evening."
As many as 2,000 meals are served per day during the week of events, with 650 specifically for the athletes, Hylton said.
Irwine Clare, founder and chief executive officer of Team Jamaica Bickle, said that stewed chicken was introduced on the menu after a survey.
"When it came back and we saw stew chicken, there were some pauses among some of the team who were not born in Jamaica. But, as it turns out, the biggest consumer of the stew chicken were the Guyanese and Trinidadian children, who went to the food line first. The Jamaican students were upset!" Clare told the forum.
He said the menu is updated periodically, and for the 25th anniversary, "maybe we will look at lobster and shrimps."
He said that Caribbean Food Delight and those who prepare the food are responsive to the needs of the athletes and are also mindful of the dietary intake. Efforts have also been made to also reduce the amount of sugar the students consume. However, despite maintaining a 24-hour hospitality suite at the hotel, the team is likely to get a call at 4:00 a.m. from students asking for food.
At least one restaurant in New York purchases Jamaican foods in bulk and retails it to others for sale.
Along with Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, Team Jamaica Bickle also assists teams from Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines, who came for the first time last year.
Team Bickle member Andrea Daley told the forum that, even if the students come without assistance, "...the Jamaican students know them from CARIFTA Games and would bring them over to share the food. So it's one big Caribbean family."