Who says cooking and eating healthy can’t be fun? Purdue University Recreation & Wellness is challenging this notion and encourages students to embrace their inner chef with its Demonstration Kitchen. Over the last semester, the department hosted 53 different programs in the kitchen with over 750 participants, with the ultimate goal of bringing a more holistic approach to wellness by teaching students about nutrition, health cooking and preparing meals.
“When you look at the demographic we serve, the college population around 18 to 24 years old, so many of these students are living on their own for the first time,” said Michelle Singleton, the assistant director of nutrition education programs at Purdue. “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 this time into adulthood so if we can be instilling in them healthy habits and teaching them how to cook, I think that is a step in the right direction towards making our campuses healthier.”
Singleton highlights a few of the programs offered at the Demonstration Kitchen.
Cooking Demos — “We have scheduled cooking demonstrations that are open to students, faculty, staff or any of or RecWell members,” said Singleton. “We offer these about three or four times per month in the evening. This past school year we revamped a lot of the recipes so we looked at things that weren’t working, we changed and tweaked things based on feedback from our cooking instructors and participants. The lead cooking instructor came up with a cooking demo called Restaurant Meals Made at Home, and then she also came up with a One Pot Meals demo. Then we have one called Breakfast of Champions that is really popular. We do a Superfoods demo, Clean Eating, Vegetarian Meals, Mediterranean Meals and more.”
Private Demos — “We have an online survey that students, faculty and staff can fill out and we have about 15 different scheduled demos on there and if they wanted to have a private demo they could,” explained Singleton. “Let’s say we were offering a demo on a Tuesday evening, but a student has a class during that time. They could actually go onto our survey and request it and maybe that student and his or her group of friends could come to that demo as their own private group.”
Kitchen Rentals — “This is a really fun, creative way if you want to host a meeting or have a celebration with a department on campus,” she added. “We have had individuals do basic cooking classes in there for their friends, we have done staff retreats and in-services. They are just using our kitchen, the pots and the pans. They have to provide all of their own food. Then in addition to providing the space and the equipment, we will have one of our staff members there to help out and show them around.”
Youth Programming — “We also collaborate with our Youth and Family Programming that we have here in the Rec,” said Singleton. “We do kid cooking clinics and those are held once a month on Saturday mornings and we break the kids up into two groups, 5 to 8 year olds and then 9 to 12 year olds and they learn how fun and easy cooking can be. They do a lot of different hands on recipes. This fall we have planned more ethnic themes, so we are doing an All American night, Fiesta Night and an Italian Class.”