Photo courtesy of Jamie Kim.

The Maize & Blue Cupboard (MBC) and the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center hosted MDining sous chef Bouakhanh Greene Wednesday afternoon to talk about food insecurity with the campus community.

Greene has worked in the South Quad dining hall for the past five years. She said she wanted to show how individuals suffering from food insecurity can create nutritious dishes from the basic ingredients the MBC offers free of charge to the U-M community. 

“Something so easy is always the best, especially when it can be cooked in 30 minutes,” Greene said. 

MBC and the Spectrum Center decided to host the joint event to raise awareness for food insecurity on campus, specifically within the  LGBTQ+ community. In a 2016 study, 31% of LGBTQ+ individuals aged 18-29 reported not having enough money to buy food in the previous year. Additionally, 30% of U-M students struggle with food insecurity.

Alyssa Garcia, support services and wellness specialist at the Spectrum Center, helped plan the event and said her goal was to make LGBTQ+ youth attending the University feel welcome at the MBC, which is located in the basement of the Betsy Barbour Residence Hall. 

“I wanted to bridge and show a relationship between the MBC and Spectrum so that students who feel comfortable … going to Spectrum will also feel comfortable going to the MBC,” Garcia said. 

MBC’s mission is to help community members in need and provide access to fresh, healthy and nutritious food. The Cupboard typically operates from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Greene said she wanted to use ingredients from the Cupboard in her demonstration so participants would know the types of meals they could make without having to buy additional ingredients. She also said several of the ingredients at the MBC come directly from the U-M Campus Farm.

“So we pulled some stuff from the Cupboard itself because I wanted to utilize what they had,” Greene said. “We have ingredients from the Campus Farm that came in, and I wanted to utilize the kale, squash and avocado. I’m all for semi-homemade cooking, and I want people to see that you don’t have to spend all day making a pie dough, for example. You can mix other ingredients in a quicker way to get the same result.” 

Before the event started, MBC program manager Kelly O’Mara told The Michigan Daily she hopes the event will encourage students to use the MBC as a resource and prepare nutritious meals with simple ingredients after viewing Greene’s demonstration.

“The Cupboard is a great resource for people who know that we are here and often, we hear that there’s a lot of community members that don’t know we are here,” O’Mara said. “A lot of easy meals can be made with only the items offered in the Cupboard, and we make it our mission to provide those suffering from food insecurity access to healthy food.”

Engineering junior Janet Jiang, a student volunteer for the MBC, encouraged students to spread the word to their campus friends about what the MBC has to offer.

“I think a great way students can learn about resources such as the MBC is to simply just talk and let their friends know,” Jiang said.

The cooking demonstration began with Greene explaining each of the different ingredients that MBC had available on Wednesday. The Cupboard usually has basic produce and protein options, but the specific items can vary on a day-to-day basis. Greene explained what dishes she was going to be making and gave a step-by-step process on how to make each dish.

She made kale chips along with a quinoa, couscous and butternut squash salad. She finished off her demonstration by whipping up a decadent peach cake — everything was made with ingredients from the MBC.

As she worked, Greene said she also seeks out low-cost options when she shops for her own groceries. She said if there’s an ingredient students cannot find at the MBC, they may be able to find it at the Dollar Store or other bargain stores. 

LSA junior Julia Lee, another student volunteer at the MBC, told The Daily the MBC can raise awareness for its mission by finding new ways to grab students’ attention as they walk around campus. She specifically suggested using brightly-colored flyers advertising the MCB to attract student interest.

“A lot of times in the Diag, the cuter and more colorful flyers tend to catch my eye more, so I feel like University organizations can spread their messages better by using methods like these,” Lee said. 

At the end of the event, attendees were able to take home tote bags of ingredients from the MCB to reproduce the dishes from Greene’s demonstration. O’Mara encouraged attendees to try out Greene’s recipes and take advantage of the MBC’s offerings, including both groceries and educational programming.

“I hope that this event builds awareness with different communities,” O’Mara said. “I also really hope that people learn how easy it is to make a meal with items from the Cupboard.” 

Daily News Contributors Aditya Kannan and Jamie Kim can be reached at and