Several hundred people a day come to Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, Pa., for food, conversation and a peek into a different way of life.
“Food is so central to every culture, and the communal action of dining with each other is very unifying,” says Mallory Smith Womble ’11, who works parttime as the assistant to the co-directors of Conflict Kitchen. “A person may not understand the nuances of American foreign policy in Palestine, but they can enjoy the food and learn more.”
Conflict Kitchen, a public art project, serves food from countries with which the United States is in conflict. The current focus is on the food, culture and politics of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (the six-member Iroquois Confederacy located mostly in upstate New York).
“We just finished a seven-month focus on the Iranian community,” says Womble. “Pittsburgh has a large Iranian population, and local members of the community came to eat and talk. Conflict Kitchen brings more diversity to the community and gives us important opportunities for human interactions with different people.”
Womble, who is finishing her master’s degree in international development at the University of Pittsburgh, says Conflict Kitchen is the ideal fit for her background and interests. After graduation from Wofford, she received a graduate certificate from American University before returning to her hometown of Pittsburgh and completing a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer through Public Allies Pittsburgh. Before that, Womble worked in her family’s catering business and took advantage of lots of opportunities at Wofford to develop leadership skills, a global perspective and a heart for local community engagement.
“My work at Conflict Kitchen has a little bit of everything I love,” she says. “Wofford is really great about exposing students to lots of experiences — Interim, study abroad, Greek life — not everyone has the chance to participate in those things. Conflict Kitchen is a place where people can get a global perspective and seek out alternative perspectives — like Wofford — so it’s a great fit for me.”
As the assistant to the co-directors, Womble’s work includes reconciling financials and budgeting, managing human resources issues and serving as the liaison with funders. When she’s not attending classes and studying or working, she’s volunteering and supporting community development in her borough, Millvale.
“It’s an up-and-coming community, and I’ve already seen tons of positive change,” says Womble. “Wofford taught me how important it is to get involved. I didn’t know anyone when I came to Wofford. Joining Tri Delta and having that tight-knit community encouraged me to try new things and excel.”
Womble now serves as the volunteer alumna adviser to the Tri Delta chapter at Carnegie Mellon, where her husband, Tyler Womble ’12, is completing his doctoral degree in chemistry.
“I love where I am right now,” says Womble. “Pittsburgh is a great local testing ground for me to develop more leadership skills and experience. We miss being closer to Wofford, but we’re really happy here.”
by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89