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Huskie Fresh brings meal kits to campus

DeKalb NIU community members now have the option to order prepackaged meals using the Huskie Fresh Meal Program.

Huskie Fresh is a collaborative project involving community members, staff, and facilities from Campus Dining Services, the College of Health and Human Sciences, and more departments of the university.

Meg Burnham, associate professor and nutrition education coordinator on campus, said the meal service is designed to provide hot, nutritious, and easy-to-make meals to members of the NIU community. Customers will receive uncooked ingredients that have been washed, chopped and otherwise prepared. Customers just need to bring their meal set home and finish the cooking process on the stove or in the oven.

The service will consist of nine different meals during the twenty-second spring semester. Huskie Fresh asks customers to pre-order so volunteers know how many meal combinations they need to prepare. Once students and graduate assistants participating in the program have prepared the food, customers can choose meal sets at The Depot C-Store on the ground floor of Holmes Student Center. Burnham said the meals cost $8 per meal and that 10% of the profits would go toward Student help fund.

The idea for the project, Burnham said, is that anyone at NIU has access to a kitchen—a stove and an oven. She said she’s starting to think about how people like meal delivery services like Hello Fresh. Burnham believed that NIU students could easily create their own meal service for hungry university staff and students, especially commuters.

Burnham said Huskie Fresh’s meals also include information and advice on feeding and cooking skills so customers can learn how to better feed themselves. It also said that there will be a QR code that customers can scan to access step-by-step videos and additional information.

“I hope, for those with the kit, it’s just a night off from trying to think about what’s for dinner,” Burnham said.

This project seeks not only to help the community, but also to give nutrition students a beneficial experience. Julie Patterson, an assistant professor who studies nutrition and nutrition education, said the Huskie Fresh program grew out of Burnham’s idea and the work of students on the Nutrition Education course at Patterson. She said the program evolved from a need for real-world experiences in the wake of the pandemic.

“When I heard Meg Burnham coming up with this idea, it seemed very appropriate for students to create Nutrition Education – to help people develop their culinary skills but also to show how eating different foods can make a difference in your life,” Patterson said. .

Patterson said she reached out to Burnham and Kelly Brassor of the Northern Illinois Food Bank, 273 Dearborn Court, Geneva, as community stakeholders in this project. Patterson said she and her students were able to speak with these community members to assess what the community needs and design a meal planning service for it.

Students in Patterson’s class can try out their idea for a community nutrition education initiative and use the feedback to adapt their strategy. Patterson said those eight students who were interested in community nutrition education ended up working on the Huskie Fresh project.

The goal of this classroom project is to do good to the community, but the charm of the project is the networking opportunities the students have created, Patterson said. She said her students, many of whom are potential nutritionists, have been able to forge lasting relationships with local community leaders and alumni assistants who serve as their peer mentors. Patterson said, however, that work has not been done on this or other projects as no project has ever been completed in the “real world” and that community initiatives are constantly evolving.

“My goal is to try to work outside the silos we tend to be inside education and really inject our work into the community,” Patterson said.

Order Huskie Fresh Meal Set via Sample on the Campus Dining Services website. Depot C is open for multi-meal from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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