Board approves Culinary Nutrition Center

$1.15 million project will prepare students for careers in dietetics and nutrition

| Author: ​Jeff Johnston

A new Culinary Nutrition Center will give Central Michigan University students a boost toward careers in nutrition and dietetics.

The Board of Trustees today authorized The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions to create the Allen Foundation Culinary Nutrition Center with a $1.15 million upgrade to facilities in Wightman Hall.

The project will modernize workstations, install audiovisual equipment, add commercial-style stoves and increase the facility’s capacity from 16 students to 24. A technology center will introduce students to state-of-the-art food service methods and equipment, such as accelerated ovens that blend microwave and convection cooking. CMU interior design students helped plan the space with sustainability in mind.

Donations so far, including $500,000 from the Allen Foundation in Midland, Michigan, cover more than $664,000 of the project cost. CMU has committed $100,000, bringing the total raised to over $764,000.

“We are finalizing plans for the space, including equipment and finishes, while continuing to work with corporate and industry partners to secure donations and grants,” said Jeffrey Fisher, faculty member in nutrition and dietetics. “The goal is to refresh the space and plan for the future, while recommitting ourselves to solving the nutritional challenges of today.”

The center is expected to open for classes in fall 2020.

Supporting stronger programs

Fisher said the high-tech center will help students better prepare for their professional exams and excel in their future careers.

They’ll work with the same multifunction equipment that food service industries use today, as well as learn the impact of cooking methods on nutrient retention and how proper cooking temperatures destroy foodborne pathogens.

The center also will support courses including an existing experimental foods course that incorporates chemistry and biotechnology; and Fuel Up to Fire Up, a program of coursework through which nutrition and dietetics students develop education for CMU athletes, coaches and staff on healthy eating.

Fisher sees opportunities for community partnerships, such as offering nutrition education programs for Mount Pleasant High School and White Pine Middle School in Saginaw Township.

“This center opens new possibilities,” Fisher said. “We’ll be able to consider programming that would be impossible in the current space.”

Fisher said the agencies that accredit CMU’s undergraduate dietetics program recommended updating the lab as part of increased academic rigor.

The agencies — the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics — also are stepping up standards for becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist, one career path for CMU students. Starting in 2024, a master’s degree will be required to take the registration exam.

CMU also offers a Master of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics.

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