Encouraging Healthy Food Behaviors Through WHISK

By: Jamie Kubota, MS, RD

“WHISK” or Wellness & Health Inspired Student Kitchens was created to provide a vetted resource for hands-on nutrition programming for the San José State University campus community.  Encouraging people to take “WHISKS” in the kitchen, the program aims to give members of the community the tools needed to promote healthy food behaviors and establish healthy relationships with food. SJSU nutrition students are recruited and trained to lead the programming, providing additional practical application opportunities to complement required academic coursework. Utilizing the peer-to-peer model, WHISK emphasizes budget-friendly plant-forward recipes that are quick and easy to prepare in order to reduce barriers to cooking and encourage fruit and vegetable intake.

Developing relationships with campus community partners has been key to the development and implementation of WHISK programming.  Prior to COVID, WHISK Ambassadors could be found leading demonstrations at the SJSU Campus Community Garden, hosting nutrition education presentations at the Timpany Center, running cooking classes in the residence halls in collaboration with Faculty in Residence, providing recipes and samples of food prepared from pantry ingredients for Spartan Food Pantry participants, tabling with Fresh Approach on the Paseo, among other activities. Since the transition to remote learning, WHISK has pivoted to provide remote programming, leading Zoom cooking sessions and sharing materials through social media.

Helen Lee (MS, Fall 2020) and Cassie Boyd (BS, Fall 2020) hosting a cooking demonstration with Fresh Approach.

Senior nutrition student, Kara Gonzales, first volunteered with WHISK while fulfilling her community nutrition service learning hours. Inspired by that experience, Kara went on to become the WHISK student liaison to the Spartan Food Pantry managing a team of community nutrition students to develop social media posts that include nutrition education and simple recipes that take into consideration equipment, access to ingredients, and cultural preferences in order to make cooking more accessible to college students.  “As a student who has used the Pantry’s services in the past, this experience has allowed me to give back in a small way while practicing lifelong skills of cultural competency and leadership among our diverse student population.”

WHISK Ambassador Shannon Vo has this to say about the program. “Working with WHISK has been one of the most rewarding experiences of being a nutrition student here at San José State University. You get to have fun and be creative, all the while learning new skills and serving your community. The best part of the work for me is the recipes, where I just love coming up with ideas, trying them out, writing them, and teaching about them.”

WHISK Ambassadors leading a demo in the SJSU Campus Community Garden. (left to right:
Sabrina Lee, Camila Reygada, Multezem Mohammed, and Ashley Reinke)

Several SJSU graduates continue to volunteer as WHISK Alum Ambassadors.  Cassie Boyd, served as the first WHISK student assistant and is returning as a Master’s student in Fall 2021. She credits WHISK in helping her to gain cooking skills to create recipes that are simple to prepare, affordable and nutrient dense.  As a volunteer, “I have seen the program inspire growth in so many WHISK Ambassadors.  Personally, WHISK helped me learn how to talk to people about cooking and nutrition, not just in real life but over social media as well.”

For more information or to request a cooking/nutrition education demonstration, visit the WHISK website at https://sites.google.com/sjsu.edu/whisksjsu or follow WHISK on Instagram at @WHISK_SJSU for current events, recipes, and cooking tips.

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