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Flavors of Campus

September 11, 2020
woman cutting carrots
Washakie Chef Gloria Gomez

From free fruit and cooking classes to meat products made by students, the Laramie campus is bursting with nutritious offerings.

 

By Micaela Myers 

It’s Friday on campus, and University of Wyoming students stop by the Wellness Center to mix up smoothies on the smoothie bike, grab some free fruit or sign up for a cooking class or a beer education series in the Union. Afterward, they enjoy Washakie Dining Center cuisine, including authentic Mexican recipes passed on for generations and a revolving pastry menu from a celebrated pastry chef. Meanwhile, alumni in town for a game drop by the Wyoming Union and take home some summer sausages and snack sticks made by UW students. These are just some of the exciting food and drink options offered here in Laramie.

 

Wellness Center Promotes Healthy Eating

During typical semesters, the Wellness Center, located in the Half Acre Gym building, offers Free Fruit Fridays, Cowboy Cooking Classes and a smoothie bike, all free to students and members of the campus community.

“Cowboy Cooking Classes are designed to provide nutritious, quick, simple recipes and ideas for students to eat. They are inexpensive and don’t require a lot of supplies,” says Lena Newlin, assistant director of campus recreation. Though they won’t be offered this fall, the classes typically take place once a month during the regular school year as a partnership between the Wellness Center and Residence Life and Dining Services, which provides the chef. Classes have included homemade bread, plant-based meals and meat-based meals, and the chefs provide substitution suggestions to fit a variety of dietary needs.

Each Friday during the school year, the Wellness Center also hosts Free Fruit Friday, when students can come by and pick up pieces of fruit.

“It’s a way to help increase fruit consumption among college students,” Newlin says.

During typical semesters, the Wellness Center also offers the smoothie bike once a month.

“The smoothie bike is super fun,” Newlin says. “It’s a bike with blender attached to it. We provide all the supplies, and people can come into the Wellness Center and make their own smoothie.”

It only takes about 15 seconds to blend a smoothie on the bike. To mix things up, the Wellness Center offers themes, such as pumpkin smoothies in the fall and Hawaiian smoothies with pineapple. Departments and clubs can also rent the smoothie bike for outreach events.

 

Meat Products Made by Students

Clara Ritchie of Arvada, Colo., hopes to pursue a career in the research and development of beef products. She graduated this past spring with her bachelor’s degree in animal science and a minor in agricultural business and is now pursuing her master’s degree in meat science at UW. Ritchie interned with UW’s Cowboy Branded Meats this past spring and also works in UW’s Meat Lab.

“The UW Meat Lab is a high-functioning education and research center,” she says. “It provides high-quality retail cuts from local livestock operations in Wyoming. All of the products produced in the meat lab are made by students. The Meat Lab offers various classes for students to take in order to get a hands-on approach to the meat industry. The classes include slaughter, processing and fabrication of pork, beef and lamb.”

At UW, students have multiple opportunities for learning about livestock production. First, the livestock judging team uses the animals, then the meat judging team uses the carcasses, then the Meat Lab breaks them down. The trim and ground beef goes into Cowboy Branded Meats for products such as sausage and snack sticks. Profits go back into the cycle to help more students learn.

three plates of food
Cowboy Branded Meats offers sausages and snack sticks made by students. (Courtesy photo)

Ritchie pursued the Cowboy Branded Meats internship to learn more about the marketing of processed meats. During her internship, she conducted inventory and restocking at CJ’s and the bookstore in the Union and was responsible for maintaining a strong presence on Facebook and social media to market products.

“In spring, we were testing flavors to introduce a new limited-time summer sausage that will be used as a fundraiser for the UW Meat Science Quiz Bowl Team.”

She also worked to develop a plan to remodel the Meat Lab Sales Room.

Assistant Lecturer Sierra Jepsen serves as the Cowboy Branded Meats coordinator and a meat judging coach. She offers three internships each year.

“The students take a lot of pride in what they’re doing and the products,” Jepsen says. “You can tell that they get really excited to test the legs on their meat science knowledge when they talk to consumers about what they’ve made—the nutritional benefits and things like that.”

Cowboy Branded Meats offers two summer sausage flavors and seven snack stick flavors. In addition to the products sold on campus, consumers can purchase products at local retailers such as the Butcher Block, Big Hollow Food Co-op, 307 Meat Co. and the Laramie farmers market.

Haley Cole of Cheyenne interned in the summer of 2018. She graduated in spring 2019 and is now pursuing her master’s degree in agricultural education from Texas A&M University–Commerce.

“I learned how the products were made and how to market and sell a product,” Cole says. “Working with local retailers and selling the product at farmers markets gave me countless opportunities to enhance my professional social skills and taught me how to speak with a variety of consumers. When I reflect about my time as the intern, I truly feel that it and Ms. Jepsen formed me into a young professional.”

At UW, Cole competed on the meat judging team and now serves as a coach of her graduate school team.

She says: “I can say with absolute confidence that joining the meat judging team and applying for this internship are some of the best professional and personal decisions I have ever made.”

 

cabinet with food in it
Food share cabinets like this one in the Haub School’s Bim Kendall House are located around campus. (Courtesy photo)

Food for All

When students face food insecurity, it hampers their ability to succeed in college. Approximately 32 percent of students nationwide face food insecurity, and the number could be as high as 44.9 percent at UW. Efforts to address food insecurity at UW began several years ago, led by students and further advanced in fall 2019 with a resolution by the Associated Students of UW to establish a collaborative student, staff, faculty and administrative task force.

Environment and natural resources and political science senior Caitlin McLennan of Monterey, Calif., who is minoring in sustainability, helped establish a campuswide taskforce last fall as co-chair of the student Sustainability Coalition. Since then, she has co-coordinated the task force as an undergraduate research assistant.

“Studies have demonstrated several challenges for students experiencing food insecurity, including increased likelihood of missing classes or study sessions, inability to buy required course and study materials, dropping classes, achieving lower GPAs, higher dropout rates, anxiety and depression, and poorer physical health,” McLennan says. “Our task force operates from the standpoint that no UW student—my peers and friends—should have to go

to class hungry due to food insecurity.”

The task force is made up of volunteers—students, faculty and staff from across campus.

Rachael Budowle, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources assistant professor who helps facilitate the task force, says: “Student food security has been an area of focus in my research, teaching and service since the very first student efforts to understand and reduce food insecurity at UW in 2017. I see myself and fellow faculty on our task force in a mentorship and facilitation role, helping students to achieve their action and leadership goals for food security. Students have truly led the way on this work from the beginning. Their voices are most important, as this issue directly affects them and their ability to thrive at the University of Wyoming and beyond.”

Initial efforts included the first food share cabinet in the Bim Kendall House in winter 2017–18.

There are now similar cabinets in the Corbett Building, Visual Arts Building, Honors House, Global Engagement Office, Department of Psychology and the American Studies Program. Haub School and Division of Kinesiology and Health students created a Food Share Cabinet Toolkit to support other units and student organizations in creating their own cabinets, and the Sustainability Coalition received $11,000 in special projects funding from ASUW for additional cabinets this past academic year.

“We established the first cabinet as a space to share food, open to all without demonstration of need or criteria to participate,” Budowle says. “As far as we know, this distributed, bottom-up approach to addressing student food insecurity is unique to UW.”

When classes went online in spring 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the cabinets were consolidated into a central food pantry in the Union breezeway to allow continued access through summer.

“In addition to supporting cabinets, the task force has accomplished a lot in a short time, including producing two reports that scope strategies and recommendations for student food security, sharing those recommendations through presentations with numerous UW stakeholders including the Board of Trustees, and meeting with First Lady (Jennie) Gordon at her invitation to identify connections with her Wyoming Hunger Initiative,” McLennan says.

The task force is looking into five interrelated strategies for supporting student food security at UW, including food recovery and sharing (e.g., from UW dining centers and after catered events, through an alert system); meal swipe sharing at UW dining centers; growing food on campus, including at ACRES Student Farm; expanding and supporting food share cabinets; and a centralized grocery pantry with at-cost, subsidized and/or free food options.

“This work is only more important as students increasingly deal with food insecurity and other challenges in the wake of COVID-19,” McLennan says. “The task force is really built on a community ethic that we should be taking care of each other, and it is truly amazing to see these people put their heads together to best take care of students.”

 

Meet Washakie Chef Gloria Gomez

Favorite things to cook: “Tacos al pastor—that’s my favorite. My family and I also love chile rellenos.”

Washakie Chef Gloria Gomez grew up in Mexico, helping at her uncle’s restaurant. Her family recipes have been passed on for generations, and for 15 years, she’s been sharing those authentic flavors with students at Washakie Dining Center, where she currently serves as a dining supervisor.

“We always made everything from scratch. Everything my mom cooked was so good,” she says. “I love to cook things that people enjoy. It gives me a lot of pleasure when the students make comments like, ‘This was awesome.’ ”

Her salsas are one such creation that elicits complements from students. Gomez tastes the food and makes sure it meets her high standards.

“If it’s not good for me, it’s not good for the customer,” she says. “I’m really picky about my food. If there’s no flavor in it, I don’t serve it. I enjoy making something good. That’s my signature. It’s what I love to do.”

 

man using pastry bag
UW Pastry Chef Keefe Fillerup

Meet UW Pastry Chef Keefe Fillerup

Favorite things to bake: For breakfast, croissants and Danishes. “It’s a laminated dough where you layer the dough and butter together. It’s incredibly relaxing. I love it. You have all that delicious crunchy layers. It’s worth all the effort.” For dessert, French entremets cake. “It’s full of mousse and cake layers with a crunchy bottom layer. The flavor combinations you can do are endless. Once you get it all made, you glaze the whole thing.”

UW Pastry Chef Keefe Fillerup began baking when he was 4: “I have dyslexia, and I hated to read. My parents used cooking as a way to get me to read. I’d read whole cookbooks.”

He grew up in Cody, Wyo., and worked in a chocolate shop and then UW’s bakery. Fillerup attended Laramie County Community College’s Albany County Campus before transferring to Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. He worked at a country club and then the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte. But Wyoming beckoned, and Fillerup and his wife and two kids relocated back to Laramie, where he took the job as UW’s executive pastry chef. At UW, he oversees all the baking—breads, desserts and pastries—for Washakie, the cafes across campus and catering. 

The extensive Washakie menu changes on a four-week rotation where nothing repeats.

“We serve two desserts every meal and three different types of cookies a day, 3,500 a week just at Washakie,” Fillerup says.

He enjoys the variety and expression his job affords him: “It makes it fun. I get to use a lot of creativity.”

 

New Food Share Pantry

In response to COVID-19, a new, larger food share pantry has opened in Knight Hall as a collaboration between ASUW and the UW Food Security Task Force. It offers a variety of healthy foods as well as hygiene products, and it can support refrigerated, frozen and perishable foods.

Simply fill out an online request form (no identifying information will be shared). Curbside pickup is available three days a week: Mondays and Thursdays 4–7 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m.–noon.

Monetary or food and hygiene donations are welcome. To learn more, visit uwyo.edu/foodsharepantry.

 

Celebrating Fermented Foods

Studies show the benefits of healthy gut bacteria, which prompts many people to take probiotic supplements. Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics. Last year, the Wyoming EPSCoR program (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) community partner Science Loves Art hosted a fermentation festival featuring fermented foods such as sourdough bread, kombucha, cheeses and beers. The three-day event was held in conjunction with the Downtown Laramie Art Walk and included Gem City Kombucha, Mama Boo’s Kimchi, Shannon Albeke’s beer, Sharon Martinson’s kefir and sauerkraut and Alibi’s sourdough bread. 4th Street Studios also provided an assortment of meats and cheeses. All of these items were available for the public to taste accompanied by information on their fermentation process. The event was capped off with live music by Seth Leininger in the 4th Street Studio greenhouse. Science Loves Art hosted the second annual Fermentation Festival Sept. 5. Visit sciencelovesart.org for updates and additional offerings. Email info@sciencelovesart.org to share ideas or get involved.

 

International Flavor Festival

Planned for 2021, the Laramie International Flavor Festival matches local restaurants with international flavor ambassadors. The event is organized through Laramie Main Street Alliance. The University of Wyoming Global Engagement Office and International Students and Scholars helped identify student organizations and individuals to provide recipes and collaborative ideas to local restaurants. From these 40 responses—representing 30 nations—downtown restaurants chose to pair with a country/flavor ambassador. An international stage will showcase international talents and demonstrations. Laramie Main Street Alliance hopes to see the majority of downtown eateries participate in this week-long celebration (laramiemainstreet.org).


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