December 8, 2014
By Madeline Ruoff ’18
Liz Mutter ’15 and Morgan Brown ’15
For some Amherst students, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of choosing the same cereal, making the same salad or opting for the traditional dinner each day at the College’s Valentine Dining Hall. But Student Health Educators (SHEs) Morgan Brown ’15 and Liz Mutter ’15 are inspiring their classmates to approach eating at Val with more imagination.
SHEs spread awareness of various health topics on campus and deal with issues such as sexuality, alcohol use and mental health. In doing their SHE work, Brown and Mutter also realized that fellow students were interested in nutrition as well. So they created a Facebook page, Amherst Cuisine, where they post recipes that can easily be made from ingredients in the dining hall. Students are encouraged to submit their own recipes as well.
The idea for Amherst Cuisine came out of a movement to make the Val Cookbook—which was written by the SHEs several years prior—more available to students. As Brown explains, Amherst Cuisine “is already ‘Facebook friends’ with most of campus, so we know it’s getting out to students.” Mutter agrees, emphasizing the accessibility brought by Facebook, where recipes can be posted “right then and there.”
While many of Amherst Cuisine’s recipes are based on the Val Cookbook, oftentimes, Brown says, “We just go to Val and see what we can come up with.” Adds Mutter: “we watch a lot of Food Network shows in our suite to get inspired, and sometimes we just get obsessed with certain ingredients.”
Some Amherst cuisine creations
Mutter learned from Denise McGoldrick, assistant dean of students/director of health education who coordinates the SHE program, that—given the availability of so many healthy options—a great way to view the dining hall is as a grocery store. “When else will you have all these ingredients available?” asks Brown. “Now’s the time to take advantage of it.” She continues, “Val is very collaborative and willing to work with students. We asked for apple slicers and Val got them not a week later.”
In the future, Mutter would like to see the Amherst Cuisine page expand to “general tips on eating and eating in Val specifically.” Brown does as well: “We want to make clear the nutrition benefits of certain ingredients.” She laughs and adds, “no one knows what chia seeds do.”
And while both Mutter and Brown are pleased with the feedback Amherst Cuisine has already received, they would love to see more Amherst students to submit their own recipes. Amherst Cuisine has given them more appreciation for Val and awareness of what it offers. Mutter now sees meals as “an opportunity to create something and enjoy the benefits of what you made,” and she and Brown would like to spread this satisfaction to the Amherst student body.