Scents of onion and garlic filled the room as students prepared food together during the “Eating Healthy on a Budget” seminar Friday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The seminar, hosted by Laura Iverson-Bastiani, is part of an effort to help students learn how to cook for themselves in an affordable way.
“Everyone always says, ‘oh, eating healthy is too expensive,’ and it really isn’t,” Iverson-Bastiani said.
Marketed as a Health, Wellness and Athletic Center “Happy Hour” event, the seminar attracted students from across campus, including Ash Page, a senior biology major.
“We haven’t had [events like this] for so long, so it’s really great to just try something new and eat food, get new ideas,” Page said.
For the Sept. 24 seminar, attendees used an air fryer, a pressure cooker, and a hot plate to make three different recipes: a vegan lentil stew, peanut butter brownie oatmeal bars and pesto pasta.
Page said free food is one of the allures of these events.
“Whenever I come here, there’s always really great food,” Page said. “The livelihood of college students is free food.”
Samantha Paredes, a senior vocal performance major, said she agreed cheap food is important for college students to know how to make.
“I’ve heard some disturbing statistics on just how many people are facing food insecurity,” Paredes said. “The problem is people generally have to work so much that they don’t have time for any other basic needs sometimes.”
Paredes said she knows of many students who barely sleep or eat enough, and struggle with doing their homework, simply because they are working so much to afford school.
“Learning about how you can make things that are really cheap, and probably won’t take you too long, could be a lifesaver for some students,” Paredes said.
Iverson-Bastiani, who has been running these events for at least six years, said cooking-based “Happy Hour” events are one of the most popular things she does – bringing in different crowds each time.
“It’s a good opportunity to learn,” Iverson-Bastiani said, explaining students do not need any experience to attend the seminars.
Since there isn’t a kitchen in HWAC, Iverson-Bastiani said it’s a good opportunity to think and work outside the box with what they’re making and how they make it.
“We always have to be really creative with doing no-bake desserts, or vegan desserts —sometimes we get out our instant pot, sometimes we’ve gotten out our slow cookers,” Iverson-Bastiani said.
Students divide and conquer to complete all the tasks involved with cooking the dishes. Iverson-Bastiani talks about budgeting, meal planning and shopping tips while students wait for the food to cook.
During her presentation, Iverson-Bastiani said it is important to make nutrition a priority, and wrote, “health is the greatest wealth” on one of her presentation slides.
“I’m really excited about the recipes I chose,” Iverson-Bastiani said. “The flyer says they’re all less than a dollar fifty, but I have a breakfast recipe that is 46 cents a serving, and a lunch one that is 64 cents.”
Iverson-Bastiani also shared resources for students to use if they do not have enough money left for groceries in their budget, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offered by the Utah Department of Workforce Services and Westminster’s on-campus resources such as the Purple Basket.
Paredes said food is linked to academic success.
“If you’re not eating,” Paredes said, “You can’t focus on your schoolwork, you can’t focus on anything else.”