Dietetics program partners with The Food Store
Each year, Bluffton University food and nutrition majors are asked to think outside of the recipe card to develop nutritious meals for Lunch and Learn. The healthy-eating series, which is open to the community, includes a 20-30 minute cooking demonstration, nutritional information and a full meal. This year, the students are getting some extra help thanks to a sponsorship from The Food Store, located on Main Street in Bluffton.
“These students are developing recipes, and it can be costly for them to purchase ingredients to practice with. This is a great partnership and we are pleased to provide these future dietitians with the food they need to make healthy meals,” said Linda Houshower, co-owner of The Food Store.
From the power of purple foods to low-sodium diets, 10 Bluffton University students will present during the series which is part of the class NTR 250: Nutrition Education and Communication.
The students are also getting an extra dose of inspiration from chef and community member, Jonah Agner, who works at The Food Store.
Agner, who recently developed an all-vegan menu for a local restaurant, visited the class to help students develop recipes based on their chosen topics. The students will incorporate the new ideas and ingredients into their projects.
“I’m vegan, so I’ve had to do a lot of cooking on my own through the years,” said Agner. “My goal is to help them develop strategies for cooking for people with special dietary needs and to expand their awareness of topics such as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cooking and how to integrate those ideas into the kitchen.”
During his visit, Agner worked with students including Emmy Runyan, a junior food and nutrition major, who was developing a sweet potato crust for a frittata.
“My topic is the nutritional power of eggs. I’m adding the sweet potatoes to make it extra fresh. I started out with a basic recipe, but Jonah helped me add different things that I wouldn’t think of myself like different spices and different vegetable combinations which is boosting the flavor,” said Runyan. “It will have a fresh, new taste, and people will feel better after eating it.”
The students also went on a field trip to The Food Store to test some of the products the store has in stock including chickpeas, which can be roasted for a healthy snack, and kombucha, a fermented tea.
“We let them sample some items for a plant-based menu. We also introduced them to gluten-free pasta so they could see that it tastes just fine and can be incorporated into a variety of diets,” said Houshower.
Jeanna Haggard, assistant professor of food and nutrition, says the partnership with The Food Store is giving students fresh ideas.
“It helps to give students new perspectives. One thing we are doing more of in the department is working on recipe development that fits the nutritional needs of the population they will serve,” said Haggard. “To make things healthier, you need some original ideas on how to change ingredients to increase the nutrition.”
Agner agreed, “A lot of them are using ingredients they haven’t used previously and are cooking food that’s outside of their normal comfort zone.“
Josh Carey planned his topic based on the needs of athletes, the future population he wants to serve. Carey was developing a recipe for a fresh-fruit tart for his presentation on Vitamin C.
“I’ve always been passionate about my health, and I try to be as healthy as I can,” said Carey. “I’m a basketball player so eating healthy is important for me playing my best. I would like to pass what I know on to athletes after I graduate.”
Carey plans to share his new-found knowledge in the future, but Agner is excited to be part of the foundation for these students.
“They all have really great questions and I’m enjoying talking with everybody. I see so many varied interests in their different topics, and it’s a fun challenge to help them address their projects.”
And while the partnership is giving students more freedom to explore because of their expanded budget, Houshower says families can follow the students’ healthy eating lead with limited resources “You can make healthy meals on a budget. Not everything has to come from a can.”