University of Texas Student E-Cookbook Promotes Sustainable Food Sourcing and Raises Funds for Feeding Texas

A team of 17 students from The University of Texas at Austin created a donation-based e-cookbook titled “A Taste of Austin Through the Lens of Sustainability” that showcases local restaurants and businesses focused on sustainability.

The students make up this year’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CPD), a three-semester pre-professional program in nutritional sciences where those enrolled rotate between work in hospitals, food banks and community centers on their way to becoming registered dietitians.

All of the proceeds from the e-cookbook will be donated to Feeding Texas, an organization that fights to end hunger in Texas. In 2019, 12.8% of Travis County residents faced food insecurity, according to Feeding America — and this number only grew after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cali Assaf, a CPD student who led the project, said the team chose Feeding Texas due to their advocacy work in combating food insecurity, which she believes is linked to sustainability. The authors of a 2015 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition argue that a transition to more sustainable food systems will reduce food insecurity, and vice versa.

“As a dietitian, you have a lot of power to figure out where you’re sourcing food, and the type of carbon footprint that your company has in relation to food,” Assaf said.

Nancy Chen, another CPD student who led the team’s marketing effort, said sustainability matters to their CPD cohort because of food’s large impacts on climate change.

“There is more of a focus on sustainability within the scope of our practice, which is exciting to see,” Chen said. “We learn a lot about how food has an impact on climate change, and we can help even through simple efforts, like encouraging one meatless day a week and being mindful of where we spend our money.”

Assaf said the team reached out to many local Austin restaurants — like Wheatsville Food Co-op, Foodheads, Asti, La Condesa and Wink — who practice sustainability by sourcing locally, giving back to the Austin community and more.

Reilly Campbell, the ownership and outreach coordinator for Wheatsville, said she enjoyed talking with Assaf for the e-cookbook and sharing the co-op’s sustainable practices.

“I hope that people who are concerned about climate change view our content in the e-cookbook,” Campbell said. “Co-ops are a huge part of communities, and I personally believe that changing the world starts with how we are fueling ourselves.”

Foodheads representative Candi Wendt said contributing to the cookbook was enriching, since it opened their eyes to ways they didn’t realize they were engaging in sustainable practices. They said it also introduced them to sustainable practices they were not previously aware of.

“I hope other food businesses will be attracted to the e-cookbook and be encouraged by the simplicity of what sustainable practices they are already implementing, as well as new ways they can incorporate sustainability in their businesses,” Wendt said.

Nutrition assistant professor Monica Milonovich, who works with students in the CPD program across their three semesters and supported the students’ project, said she is impressed by the class’s work on the e-cookbook.

“They have taken the project to a whole new level,” Milonovich said. “I’m always amazed how the Coordinated Program in Dietetics students continually exceed my expectations.”Zilker Brewing Company is hosting a launch party for the e-cookbook on June 17, with limited edition hard copies available. The e-cookbook will also be available to download on Feeding Texas‘s website between June 17 and July 5.

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