Program Teaching Students to Cook on a Budget Finds Funding to Start Again

Open Kitchen is a program that hosts a series of classes on how to cook nutritious food for cheap. Once funded out of its founder’s pocket, it now has support from a variety of NYU groups.

Steinhardt first-year Abe Konick (center) teaches a group of students how to cook spaghetti sauce at the first Open Kitchen event of the semester. (Photo by Victor Porcelli)

One of many student-led initiatives to combat campus food insecurity, Open Kitchen — a program which teaches students how to cook nutritious food on a budget — held its first class of the semester on Wednesday.

Share Meals, the app created to allow students to share meal swipes that has since turned into a food insecurity-fighting business, hosted the event in the Kimmel Center for University Life. Over the course of the two-hour class, Steinhardt Food Studies and Nutrition major Abe Konick taught a handful of students how to cook a simple spaghetti sauce, which incorporated carrots, peppers, garlic and other healthy ingredients.

Konick spent two years at culinary school in London and transferred to Steinhardt this past fall. Having experienced food insecurity himself when he was working to pay for culinary school, Konick jumped at the opportunity to help with what he sees as an impactful program.

“It’s important because you need to rely on yourself,” Konick said. “You can’t just rely on restaurants or things like that, especially if you don’t have the funds in order to do so. What we’re trying to incorporate with the Open Kitchen is [to] show [students] that there’s cheap alternatives.”

A student cuts a green pepper to be used in the spaghetti sauce. (Photo by Victor Porcelli)
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It was the first class of the semester for a program that is just finding its footing after a grant that had funded Open Kitchen from 2017 to 2018 ran out. Started in 2016 by Share Meals founder and Steinhardt graduate student Jon Chin, Open Kitchen only held a class annually for its first two years and was funded out of Chin’s own pocket, and then that of Share Meals.

After being awarded a green grant in fall 2017, the program expanded and held five classes the following year. Now, Open Kitchen has returned through funding from the Office of Student Affairs, Steinhardt’s Food Studies and Nutrition department, Dining Services and student government.

Steinhardt senior Zella Christenson taught one of the first classes in 2016. Although not technically part of the program now, she is the purchasing manager for Steinhardt’s kitchen, which has partnered with Open Kitchen.

“It’s exciting that the new partnership with our department to have a more solid financial base to make the program more sustainable in the future,” Christenson said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the partnership unfolds over time.”

With food donated by Misfits Market — which sells fresh produce that won’t sell on the market due to blemishes at a discount — utensils and plates donated by NYU Dining Services and equipment funded through the food studies program, the event was truly a group effort.

Gallatin junior Ankita Sethi attended the event and said she enjoyed the ability to cook free food with other people.

“I’m talking to a bunch of new people and they’re all really cool. I like that aspect of it a lot, where it isn’t just me going home to make food,” Sethi said. “I’d do this every evening if they did it.”

Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected].

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