Student dinner groups create healthy, social meals

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Brooklyn Pierce (left) and Ashley Mork (right) prepare a meal for their classmates in the “food preparation in the home” course. (Ryan Turner)

BYU students have found financial, health and social benefits through participating in dinner groups with friends and roommates.

“When I heard about dinner groups at BYU, I thought that the students doing them were geniuses,” said Marci Smith, a professor in the School of Family Life.

Smith said students can form dinner groups with roommates, people in their ward or friends. Usually the groups are about six to eight people. Each person in the group takes a turn cooking a complete, nutritious, well-organized meal. The person cooking the meal hosts the dinner and everyone comes over at the agreed-upon time each night.

BYU School of Family Life professor Dana Adcock explained why dinner groups can be beneficial for BYU students.

“Dinner groups are a great way to socialize over a meal. A lot of people miss the idea of family meal time when they’re away from home, and you get this feel with dinner groups,” Adcock said. “It forces you to take a break from school and sit down to a meal instead of always eating on the run.”

Adcock said it’s also a good idea to set ground rules when starting a dinner group. Students should decide what days each person can hold the dinner group and if they are going to hold it on weekends or just during weekdays.

“It’s important to determine what the group thinks is an acceptable dinner because someone wouldn’t want to make a main dish and two sides for their turn and then the next day go to someone else’s house and they only have grilled cheese prepared,” Adcock said.

Food allergies and food preferences should be determined as well.

BYU accounting student Stephanie Briggs is currently involved in a dinner group and said she would definitely encourage any student to participate in a dinner group. She said they aren’t hard to form, and students only need a few friends and some commitment to form a dinner group.

Briggs said dinner groups save time, provide a social environment and promote healthier eating habits. She said everyone loves food that is already prepared for them.

“In our dinner group, we have three or four apartments get together for dinner. One of the apartments hosts the others,” Briggs said. “This means the hosting apartment is in charge of personally inviting each apartment to dinner and making all the food.”

Briggs is currently participating in a monthly ward dinner group. She has also participated in a daily dinner group. She said both are beneficial because they provide opportunities to eat healthier and to be social.

“The daily dinner groups are super nice because you only have to cook once a week. It may take more time to cook a quality meal, but doing that once a week is totally worth it,” Briggs said. “You get real food every day, and you only cook once. It’s awesome.”

Exercise science major Brooklyn Pierce said she learned some helpful new recipes and improved her cooking skills through the “food preparation in the home” course.

“I think it’s important to be able to cook quality meals in college because everyone knows that food is the key to a man’s heart,” Pierce said.

Accounting junior Kyle Nay said his dinner groups include six to eight friends. They get together and take turns making a meal for the whole group. Nay said he likes his dinner groups not only because he gets to socialize with his friends every night, but he also saves money and eats better.

“I have gotten so close to the people that I have done dinner groups with. If for nothing else, the social aspect is amazing — although the financial and health benefits are incredible as well. You save time and money, and you feel better eating real meals,” Nay said. “I would highly recommend doing a dinner group.”

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