Huskie Fresh brings meal kits to campus


Zulfiqar Ahmed

Huskie Fresh is a new meal service for students.

DeKALB NIU community members now have the option to order premade meals with the Huskie Fresh meal kit program.

Huskie Fresh is a collaborative project involving community members and personnel and facilities from Campus Dining Services, the College of Health and Human Sciences and more university departments.

Meg Burnham, an assistant professor and nutrition education coordinator on campus, said the meal service is designed to provide easily-made, nutritious, hot meals for NIU community members. Customers will receive uncooked ingredients that have already been washed, cut and otherwise prepared. Customers only need to bring their meal kit home and finish the cooking process on a stove or in an oven.

The service will consist of nine different meals over the Spring ‘22 semester. Huskie Fresh is asking customers to order in advance so volunteers can know how many meal kits they need to prepare. As soon as the students and graduate assistants involved in the program have prepared the food, customers can pick the meal kits up at The Depot C-Store on the ground level of the Holmes Student Center. Burnham said the meals cost $8 per serving and that 10% of the profits will go toward the Student Assistance Fund

Burnham said the idea of the project is that it’s for anyone at NIU who has access to a kitchen — a stove and oven. She said she started thinking about how people like meal delivery services like Hello Fresh. Burnham thought NIU students could easily create their own meal service for hungry university employees and students, especially commuters. 

Huskie Fresh meals also include information and tips on the nutrition and culinary skills so customers can learn about how to better nourish themselves, Burnham said. She also said there will be a QR code customers can scan to access step-by-step videos and additional information.

“I hope that, for those who have the kit, it’s just kind of a night off from trying to think about what’s for dinner,” Burnham said.

Not only does this project seek to help the community, but it also aims to give nutrition students meaningful experience. Julie Patterson, an assistant professor teaching nutrition and nutrition education, said the Huskie Fresh program grew from Burnham’s idea and the work of students in Patterson’s nutrition education course. She said the program evolved out of the need for real-world experiences following the pandemic. 

“When I heard Meg Burnham was launching this idea, it seemed such a great fit for the students to create nutrition education — to help people develop their cooking skills but also pepper in how eating different foods will make differences in your life,” Patterson said.

Patterson said she reached out to Burnham and Kelly Brasseur of the Northern Illinois Food Bank, 273 Dearborn Court, Geneva, as community stakeholders in this project. Patterson said she and her students were able to speak with these community members to assess what the community needed and tailor a meal planning service for it.

Students in Patterson’s class could pilot their idea for a community nutrition education initiative and use feedback to adapt their strategy. Patterson said those eight students who were interested in community nutrition education ended up working on the Huskie Fresh project.

Patterson said the goal for this class project is to do good in the community, but that the magic of the project is the networking opportunities students created. She said her students, many of whom are prospective nutritionists, were able to make lasting relationships with local community leaders and graduate assistants who act as their peer mentors. Patterson said, however, that the work isn’t done on this or other projects as no project is ever complete in the “real world” and that community initiatives are constantly evolving.

 “My goal is to try to operate outside of silos that we tend to be in within education and really infuse our work into the community,” Patterson said. 

Order a Huskie Fresh meal kit via the form on the Campus Dining Services website. The Depot C-store is open and available for meal kit pickup 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.