The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Michelle Singleton, Assistant Director of Nutrition Education Programs at Purdue University, shares advice on running a demonstration kitchen.
What is one of your favorite programs that you have put on in the demonstration kitchen?
MS: The Clean Eating Demo seems to be really popular with our students. I think that is a great way to show students that you don’t have to be making processed foods. What we have been doing is we show them how to make homemade peanut butter, homemade ice cream, guacamole with baked tortilla chips. Then we will also do roasted vegetables, which is really nice because depending on what the season is, we will talk to them about the different things they can get and try to get them thinking about eating locally. That is one of the demos I really like because we give the students some great nutrition education, but we also are able to show them how they can be saving money and reducing the amount of processed foods they are eating.
What has student feedback been like?
MS: Looking at our data, we can see that students are saying that they are more likely to be cooking at home, and that they feel like they are getting valuable nutrition information. But also when we look at safety and sanitation, we are seeing that students are being able to identify a safety or sanitation technique. We are seeing that students are able to increase their self-efficacy to make healthy food choices throughout the semester. We do have a decadent desserts demo too, because we don’t want students to leave here and feel like they need to eat all of this healthy food. Finding a balance with eating is really important. When we look at our testimonials, one student said, “I can see myself incorporating the knowledge and skills from this demo in the future.” So they are taking what they learned here, whether it is knife skills, how to crack an egg or making homemade guacamole, they are able to take those skills and put them into real-life practice.
What advice would you give other recreation professionals who might want to do something similar?
MS: I know this is something a lot of recreation facilities on college campuses don’t have. I definitely think there is a need for it. When you look at what our demographic is, the college age population around 18 to 24 years old, so many of those students are living on their own for the first time. They are potentially cooking for the first time and I really believe that the habits that they are learning in this time frame, whether they are healthy or not, are habits that are going to take them from that time into adulthood. So if we can be instilling in them healthy habits, they can come into these classes that are interactive and they get a lot of great nutrition information. I think that is a step in the right direction toward making our campuses healthier.