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Since she can remember, freshman Ashlyn Anderson has been the cook in her family.

Pursuing her passion for food, Anderson has volunteered to cook nutritious food for cancer patients, and she comes to UT with the hope of pursing a degree in food science and finding more ways to make a difference in the world.

“I’ve always had a fascination with cooking, but I really developed a passion for it in my early high school years,” said Anderson, of Franklin, Tennessee. “After a day of school and basketball practice I would come home and just cook. It became kind of a therapy for me as just a way to escape, and I would try to experiment with new things.”

During her sophomore year at Franklin High School, Anderson found she could combine her love of cooking and service by volunteering at the Heimerdinger Foundation in Nashville.

As a volunteer teen chef, Anderson helps cook nutritious, healthy meals for patients fighting cancer.

“The clients come in and talk about how the meals we’re making have helped them heal and educated them about food throughout their journey. The core philosophy of food as medicine is something I want to incorporate into my future calling.”

Her favorite meals include a quinoa pizza casserole using zucchini and squash or any crusted chicken or fish.

Through her experience at the Heimerdinger Foundation, Anderson became interested in pursuing a food science degree to learn more about how food affects the body. She was sold on UT after discovering the opportunities offered by the Haslam Scholars program.

Founded in 2008, the program is UT’s premier undergraduate academic enrichment program. Each year, up to 15 freshmen are admitted to the program, which offers academic, service, and leadership experiences mentored by top UT faculty.

“As an 18-year-old, I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with the rest of my life,” said Anderson. “But I do know that after seeing the current scholars and the ones who have already graduated doing incredible things to make a difference in the world, I’m really inspired to be a part of that change.”

Anderson plans to volunteer at Pond Gap Elementary School in their community garden and cooking club as a way to educate youth about the importance of nourishing food.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,