When the University of North Dakota Wellness Center opened in 2006, the goal was to foster a culture of multi-dimensional wellness and encourage students to live balanced lives. They moved beyond a focus on fitness and instead embraced all seven dimensions of wellness. A crucial component to this was healthy eating. In order to address nutrition, the Culinary Corner was implemented.
“The Culinary Corner’s original name was Burnt Toast and was opened at the same time the Wellness Center opened in 2006,” said Alisha Namanny, the Culinary Corner Program Manager at the University of North Dakota. “The idea behind the Culinary Corner was to provide a place for college students to learn how to cook healthy meals and start them thinking about choosing healthier options while at the grocery store. We wanted to provide a place where we hit on the nutritional and social aspects of wellness, and so the Culinary Corner was created.”
Students, faculty, staff and Wellness Center members can choose from a wide variety of class offerings. Some of these include:
Cheap, Fast and Healthy — This class is held once a week and is free to all participants. “We target this class towards college students to teach them how to eat healthy on a budget and under time constraints,” explained Namanny.
Cultural Cooking — During this monthly class, participants will visit different countries around the world. “We try to demo traditional recipes that would be found in those countries,” added Namanny.
Crock Pot Cooking — “Participants get to make their meal during their lunch hour and then take their crock pot back their office, so their meal is ready for them when they get home,” she said. “This class has been a huge success with faculty and staff.”
Cooking with the Kiddos — “This class is geared towards anyone with kids, including the greater Grand Forks community,” explained Namanny. “It is for kids ages 4 to 9 years old. This is a hands on class to teach kids how to do basic cooking skills. It also teaches them how to start incorporating healthy eating into their lives at a young age.”
According to Namanny, all of the classes have been a hit with students, faculty and staff. They are even considering offering some more frequently. “Cheap, Fast and Healthy is our most popular class with students,” she said. “People seem to like the variety in the recipes offered. Cultural Cooking is also very popular with students. We heard that students wanted the class more frequently, so we bumped up the amount of classes that we offered throughout the semester.”
Smaller groups can also reserve the kitchen for private cooking classes. “They provide me with ideas of what they would like to see in the class and then I have the freedom to create a class specific to the group’s needs,” added Namanny. “I think these are the most fun because everyone is interested in the information being presented and eager to do hands on cooking.”
If you run a similar program at your recreation center or want to start one, Namanny recommends thinking outside of the box. When it comes to engaging students with healthy eating, it is important to get creative.
“Don’t limit yourself to just what you can think up, ask others,” suggested Namanny. “And marketing is key to a successful program. If you have the ability to promote the classes through tabling, handing out flyers or speaking to groups on campus, I would highly recommend it. The more you get the word out, the more people will likely bring in to your program and the more successful the program is.”