Through its series of six cooking and food safety classes — all free — for Ohio State students, the Buckeye Food Alliance aims to educate students about healthy meals and eating habits they can reproduce themselves.
According to the Student Health Center website, The Buckeye Food Alliance is an equal opportunity provider that operates a pantry at the customer’s choice. The pantry has been working to provide food to students in need since 2016 and is now expanding its services to include cooking classes – including kitchen safety, knife skills and the use of spices — until 8 December. This is the first time that it has offered cooking classes, with 15 places each.
BFA coordinator Nick Fowler said the cooking classes – which started on Thursday – supplement the functions of the pantry.
“There were times when I worked with a student, you know, they come over and we have, like, nice freshly picked zucchini, and they get left behind,” Fowler said. “Because it seems like, ‘Well, if I took that, I wouldn’t quite know what to do with it.’ And so I think these classes are a way to, you know, help students become more empowered and improve their cooking skills.
The course is led by Michael Carnahan and Cameron Carothers, senior culinary educators at James Cancer Hospital.
Carnahan said the goal of the classes was to promote healthier eating habits.
“One of our main goals and objectives is to teach people about nutrition and more plant-based meals and just try to get people more vegetables,” Carnahan said. “So we’re just trying to raise awareness about cancer-fighting vitamins and nutrients and vegetables.”
Carothers, a registered dietitian, said in an email that the pantry always tries to keep classes as accessible as possible while emphasizing healthy ingredients and cooking techniques.
“These classes are intended to serve a student population that may be food insecure,” Carothers said. “We’ve tailored the classes to use common pantry items and to be flexible to meet any budget, dietary need, or time constraint.”
Emma Lazor, a fourth-year medical dietitian and BFA treasurer, said in an email that the resources are made freely available to students due to grants and outside funding.
“BFA is fortunate to have so much support from Columbus-area organizations and others who believe in our ‘No Buckeye Goes Hungry’ mission,” Lazor said. “Thanks to these donations and support, we are able to provide free groceries and personal hygiene products to any OSU student and offer additional programs like cooking classes at no cost. .”
Before the first class on Thursday, Carnahan said he and Carothers led a volunteer session called Intro to the Kitchen to test out the class in which students made vegetable soup and whole-wheat carrot cake cupcakes.
“It was almost a perfect hour, and we actually had some time after that,” Carnahan said. “Some students stayed after to sit and eat a meal with us — which we did — or some students just took it home,” Carnahan said.
During the Healthy Cooking Methods class on Thursday, students made pan fajitas and pico de gallo. Carnahan said they also cover food safety, sanitation and basic knife skills, which instructors go over at the start of each class.
Lazor said the classes contribute to BFA’s mission and will benefit students beyond what the pantry provides.
There are no more places left for any class at the time of publication. Fowler said there are no additional classes scheduled after the sixth session on Dec. 8, but he hopes more will become available soon.
“If the funding comes along and the opportunities are there, we would definitely like it and as long as it’s something our students find valuable,” Fowler said.