Cross-campus collaboration cooks up fun recipe videos for CSU students, by students

Preparing a meal is a source of pride. Before the silverware makes its acquaintanceship with the plate or bowl, ingredients filled with vibrant color are carefully curated as the worlds of art and science coalesce in boiling pots and sizzling pans.

For the average college student, this image of culinary creativity is only accessible via YouTube or cooking channels and rarely in their own kitchen, especially during a pandemic. Until now.

Thanks to a campus collaboration between the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center (KRNC), and CSU Campus Recreation, students can cook up quick, easy, and healthy budget-friendly recipes with ease under the guidance of KRNC’s practicum student chefs.

Great minds think alike

Born out of the unified goal to support CSU students during the pandemic with engaging and helpful content, each of the three campus organizations used their strengths to see this project through.

“ASCSU wanted to provide an additional resource during the pandemic for students who were at home more and cooking more often, but had less experience cooking,” said Charlotte Lakin, registered dietitian nutritionist at KRNC.

Ingredients for a fried rice recipe are placed on a wooden table. Green onion, red onion, shrimp, rice, and eggs.

One of the featured KRNC recipes is the golden shrimp fried rice – find it here

The Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center already had a partnership with Campus Recreation, collaborating on health and wellness-based infographics to display on the Rec’s LCD screens. In November of 2019, they took this partnership a step further and combined content with skills to promote the KRNC’s Recipe of the Month series with high-quality videos.

When ASCSU approached the Nutrition Center with an idea to provide students with videos of how to cook healthy meals with simple ingredients, the foundation was already well established.

Emphasis on access

Aidan Knaus of ASCSU along with ASCSU’s Director of University Affairs Sam Stoltz coordinated with Lakin and Kalyn Garcia, another registered dietitian nutritionist at KRNC, to get the project moving forward. Before getting started, each of the project coordinators collectively sought to emphasize health and accessibility for the project, especially when considering the world’s current circumstances.

“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone and one of our main concerns was about students’ access to healthy food, so we sought to provide them with simple, healthy, and delicious meals that they could try at home,” Knaus said. “I gave them a sense of what we were trying to accomplish, and from that point on they did all of the hard work!”

That hard work came in the form of Zoom meetings and emails between Lakin and the KRNC practicum students who handled the project’s crucial component: cooking.

“Since we moved online, we weren’t able to teach our cooking classes, which was one of the main projects for our practicum students,” Lakin said. “This was an awesome alternative project for them to work, cook, and teach, and we always love collaborating with other CSU groups and organizations.”

For students, by students

For this project to fully come to fruition, it required a personal touch. A green and gold touch, to be exact.

“We all loved the idea of directly serving the CSU community,” Lakin said. “We know that there are millions of recipes and recipe videos online, but sometimes those aren’t as easy or affordable. With this, we provide easy, accessible recipes that students can take and make their own.”

KRNC practicum student Grace McKevitt smiles in her home kitchen, while wearing a grey tee-shirt and and gold jewelry.

Grace McKevitt in her home kitchen prior to preparing a meal. 

One of the students that made integral contributions was food science and human nutrition senior, Grace McKevitt. An avid cooking show viewer with a true love for every facet of the culinary world, McKevitt was ready to step up and help her peers in the best way she could.

“I love cooking, finding new recipes, watching cooking shows, and finding new ways to create new things with what I already have in my kitchen,” McKevitt said. “That’s a good thing that has come from this time, using what you have!”

McKevitt, alongside other undergraduate practicum students Nancy Ghanem and Alexandra Peyton and graduate teaching assistant, Michelle Dinges, collectively made a total of ten recipe videos. Each recipe was crafted to be customizable for students with dietary preferences and restrictions, and only include ingredients that most students have in their pantries.

“I hope the community sees how easy, and budget-friendly it can be to create tasty and healthful recipes, as well as learning to use what you have in your kitchen and modify it or make substitutions,” McKevitt said.

Though the future remains uncertain, projects like these are a reminder of Rams’ dedication to serve, collaborate, and innovate despite their circumstances. Expect to see more occasions when Rams work together to put these qualities on display similar to that of a top-tier chef presenting a decadent dish.

The KRNC featured recipe videos can be found here.

The Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center is in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, part of CSUs College of Health and Human Sciences.