When most people think of fitness and wellness they are apt to leave nutrition out of their mindset. However, the Wellness Center at the University of North Dakota puts an emphasis specifically on the nutrition factor of fitness and wellness by offering students, faculty and community members the opportunity to utilize their Culinary Corner.
Culinary Corner is a demonstration kitchen on the first floor of the UND Wellness Center with cooking classes available most days of the week. The classes are led by culinary instructors, UND nutrition students or a guest chef from the community. Stephanie Hoffman, Coordinator of Fitness and Nutrition at UND, said an all-around wellness lifestyle is much more than just lifting weights or running.
“Our staff comes from the mentality that physical wellness is not just working out in the gym, there’s a whole other component of nutrition that goes along with that,” said Hoffman. “The university wanted to make sure they had a well-rounded physical wellness dimension. So the Culinary Corner was implemented from the beginning and included in the plans.”
While students do often come in for classes, the main attendees for Culinary Corner classes are faculty and staff. UND aims to meet their needs as a way to get them into the Wellness Center in hopes of them becoming full-time members.
“We offer a lot of programs that are built with faculty and staff in mind,” said Hoffman. “They don’t automatically get the free membership to the facility, but this allows them to preview it and give them a little more incentive to come here verses a competitor in town.”
Making partnerships with individuals in the community and being able to use that as a platform to help educate Culinary Corner students has been a main goal for UND Wellness Center. Hoffman explained she usually finds a unique style of food and then aims to get those chefs into their kitchen.
“Sushi isn’t typically common in North Dakota so we try and get the few places in town that do serve sushi to come in and do demonstration classes and talk about the culture that comes along with that,” said Hoffman. “One of our program managers for the culinary corner this year is from China and she has taught a few classes speaking on the food culture in China and how all of it plays a role.”
Hoffman’s key takeaway she has learned from working with the Culinary Corner is marketing. Knowing your market and understanding what they want is a good first step towards success.
“It’s hunting season right now in our area, so we tailor some of the classes to utilize and make healthy meals with wild game,” said Hoffman. “One thing we did was a pheasant class and how to think outside the box of what people are used to. We tailor it throughout the year, like during Super Bowl time we do a class on how to put a healthy spin on Super Bowl snacks, things like that.”
Hoffman explained how important it is to value something like a Culinary Corner at your rec center, “Our impact is a small thing in the grand scheme of how many people we see come through for the workouts and exercise, but for how much we can actually serve with the culinary corner it has done very well.”