Serving up nutrition, connection and fun

Free course teaches Mount Royal students how to budget, shop and cook
Chef Peter demonstrates to students how to safely chop vegetables.
Chef Peter demonstrates to students how to safely chop vegetables.

A new program that addresses food insecurity is helping Mount Royal students expand their cooking and budgeting skills while meeting new friends along the way. NourishU fuelled by Canadian Natural, is a series of free cooking classes developed by MRU’s Wellness Services that gives students hands-on kitchen experience as well as tips and tricks for navigating the grocery store and the pantry.

MRU students are able to sign up for a three-hour course, with multiple sessions offered per semester. In addition to sharpening their cooking skills, they also go through a lesson in the classroom on how to budget and shop for healthy groceries. The course also covers food storage and waste, plus different labels on food products such as the difference between an expiry date and a best before date.

Jody Arndt, Director of Wellness Services, says the program is a collaborative effort and came about after a conversation between her department and Chartwells, the food service provider at Mount Royal, around how to support students facing or at risk of facing food insecurity.

“In our most recent campus-wide survey, almost 50 per cent of our students reported that they struggled with food insecurity in the past 30 days,“ she explains, adding that the same survey found that 30 per cent of students reported that they did not eat as much as they should have or skipped meals because they couldn't afford to eat.

The goal was to support students through intervention and also through prevention, which is where NourishU comes in. “This program is designed not only to provide students with food now, but also to teach students how to manage their food budgets, meal plan, grocery shop and cook all on a budget.”

Health Campus Manager Yemi Adeyemi says nutrition plays an important role in overall wellness. “We understand that the brain thrives on nutritious food. Through this program we strive to empower students with essential skills and knowledge, ensuring they prioritize healthy, nourishing food to support their overall well-being.”

Sizzling success

Both students and those within Wellness Services agree that the program is already a huge success.

Students spend the first portion of the three hours in the classroom and then they make their way to The Table where Chartwells chefs lead them through the basics of knife safety and chopping, eventually leading them through the entire process of cooking a meal.

“Chef Peter really supports the students in learning knife skills and cooking techniques that make cooking their own meals much less intimidating,” says Arndt.

Andrea Cairns took part in the second NourishU course where students cooked tofu satay with veggies and noodles. She says it was an awesome experience overall.

“It’s great to see the university hosting free events that bring students together to teach valuable life skills. Not only did we learn about practical kitchen skills but we were given information about how to safely store food and maximize our food expense.”

She notes that the program exposes students to foods and kitchen experiences they may not have ever tried before. Not only was the $100 grocery gift card a huge help on expenses but she says it has “motivated me to make healthier meals made at home instead of eating out.”

Adeyemi adds most students who took one of the courses so far have reported that they are likely to apply their new cooking skills to prepare recipes in the coming weeks.

NourishU also brings students together, many pair up in the kitchen during but even after the course is done Arndt says students are grouping up to cook and share meals together.



The program, she says, would not have been possible without funding from Canadian Natural and additional support from Calgary Co-op and Sobeys. “I can't express my gratitude to Canadian Natural who really saw the opportunity to support students in learning the skills to support themselves in gaining food security over the long term, and to Calgary Coop and Sobeys for providing funding for the students to buy groceries and practice their new skill sets at home.”

With the funding from Canadian Natural and partners, NourishU will be offered multiple times a semester for the next three years.

In addition to NourishU, there are other food resources on campus for students through SAMRU programs including Good Food Boxes, daily Free Breakfast and Food and Hygiene Cupboards.

Chartwells, MRU's food service provider, contributes available food through the Second Harvest app that SAMRU utilizes to fill the care cupboards on campus.