New student initiative promotes simple, sustainable and smart eating

Eatsss was formed out of three students’ love for sharing good foor with others

Sophie Kidd

Over the summer, Vivian Barker, Jillian Gallardo and Allie Stankewich came together to discuss their passion: sharing good food with others.

The three students wanted to start an organization to promote healthy and sustainable eating culture throughout the community. Using their various backgrounds in food and nutrition, they ultimately created Eatsss, or Eat Simple, Sustainable and Smart.

Last year, Barker organized a series of cooking classes with local chef Troy Sheller, former Haywood’s Executive Chef.

“Troy and I wanted to teach students how easy it is to use the balanced plate method, which is healthy protein, healthy fat and veggies, and we would use a new recipe every week,” Barker said.

Barker has cooked her whole life. She discovered her love of food at a young age and has been cooking for her friends and family ever since. In addition to good food, Barker also has a passion for health.

“I worked as an intern with a physician’s assistant who specializes in nutrition and dieting, so I wanted to incorporate healthy living into our initiative,” she said.

Gallardo and Stankewich interned at Campus Kitchen this summer, where they worked with the Lexington community and Rockbridge Area Relief Association to promote healthy eating.

“We worked on nutrition education with some kiddos through the Rockbridge YMCA camp,” Gallardo said. “We were also promoting a social media campaign for a produce program in collaboration with RARA, so it made sense for some of that work to spill over into the context of our lives here.”

After recognizing a need for better eating habits on their own campus, Gallardo and Stankewich contacted Barker.

“Most of the initial work was how we want- ed to present Eatsss. We debated on a name. We debated on doing Zoom cooking classes vs. Instagram lives. A lot of discussion on how to advertise,” Gallardo said. “COVID really threw a wrench in the initial idea of doing in-person cooking classes, but we’re making it work!”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Eatsss has been using Instagram to engage with students, share videos and educate followers.

Recently, Barker began working with Sheller again for a video series about the Lexington Farmers Market. Sheller provides viewers with recipes made with locally sourced produce and vendors explain where the food comes from.

“If people can learn how to incorporate these healthy practices now, it’ll carry on with them for the rest of their lives,” Barker said.

The account also features students leading live cooking classes, which Eatsss hopes to include more often. Looking forward, the organization is working on a live Zoom class.

“Food is so much more than sustenance. It’s a way we connect with each other, with our bodies, and with the Earth,” Gallardo said. “Alongside our mission to promote sustainable and healthy eating, we want to provide a community for foodies out there to feel connected to each other in such a disconnected time.”