Dietetics program showcases culinary ingenuity with FSU's Food for Thought Pantry staples

Dani Linavi, B.S., CHWC, FSU M.S. & Dietetic Internship Student


Graduate and undergraduate students in Florida State University’s Dietetics program competed in the first-ever cooking competition using ingredients only from the FSU Food for Thought Food Pantry. The event was held to strengthen relationships within the FSU Dietetics community and to spread awareness of the food pantry's hidden potential to provide nutritional meals!

Teams of students lined up at the back of the William Johnston Building's Foods Lab on Thursday, November 16, to await the reveal of fresh mystery ingredients: cabbage, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and zucchini squash. Meredith Giles, a graduate student and dietetic intern emceeing the event, led the countdown to the ingredients. On the count of three, all the competitors rushed toward the newly revealed vegetables laid atop a colorful array of pantry staples, grabbing what they could. Once arriving at their station, the sounds of dozens of cans and packets opening at once signaled the true start of competition.

Alongside a camera crew, Giles followed the aroma of caramelizing sugar and roasting garlic wafting through the Foods Lab. In the heat of the moment, she interviewed students through their chopping and sautéing. "The first one is a peanut butter and jelly, and the second one has a cranberry reduction with lemon zest and clove," explained Anna Lehigh, second-year dietetic internship student, as she and her cooking partner, second-year dietetic internship student Nicole Nisbett, plated two golden and fluffy pancakes for each judge.

Student cutting potatoes on a countertop in a large kitchenMeanwhile, Lisa Trone, DhSc, RDN, LDN, Dietetic Internship Program Director; Haiyan Maier, PhD, RDN, LDN; Jennifer Farrell, MS, RDN, LDN; Addi McNeill, second-year dietetic internship student; and Aeron Izack-Manuel, undergraduate dietetic student, cameraman, and editor for the competition, eagerly awaited to taste and score the dishes.

After a drum roll, the winners were revealed. Lily Houser and Kendall Helms took second place with their beefy spinach mac & cheese. "I'd make this every night of the week," Mrs. Farrell appraised. Veronica Santamaria, Bailey Hughes, and Abby Moscoso took first place with their vegetarian chilli!

"I'm vegetarian myself, so I wanted to make anything presiding to me, so we added squash, beans, tomato, corn, and cheese," said Hughes, undergraduate dietetic student. "But you don't have to use cheese," clarified Moscoso, undergraduate dietetic student. Santamaria, an undergraduate dietetic student and creator of the recipe cards for the event, finalized the title of their dish "[It's] called a 10 for $10 because it costs $10 dollars to make and you can feed 10 people with it."

Following the judging, each team was interviewed on what the competition meant to them.Students cooking on a stovetop

"I think more people need to know about the diversity of amazing dishes you can create with ingredients from the [FSU Food for Thought] Food Pantry," said Dani Linavi, second-year dietetic internship student and organizer of the event. For all students, the competition was a fun and creative gathering to see what delicious and nutritious meals they can make together with limited ingredients.

Both the undergraduate and graduate students who took part of this competition are working toward becoming Registered Dietitians. While cooking isn't a requirement for the RD exam, students were excited to test how well they could cook with a tight budget – a challenge many of their peers and future clients face. In this first-of-its-kind competition, the students proved to FSU that they are more than capable of doing just that. They hope that this inspires all recipients of the FSU Food for Thought Food Pantry to go further with the staples they generously provide free of charge to all FSU students.

The Department of Student Support and Transitions runs the FSU Food for Thought Food Pantry for currently enrolled students who are facing food insecurity. Any current FSU student can visit University Center A, Suite 4148 for free pantry staples.