FOOD IS MEDICINE: FIELD STUDIES

Teaching Kitchens

Introduction

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THE TERM “TEACHING KITCHEN” elicits images of stainless steel kitchens used by students learning techniques to make food delicious. Within the context of Food Is Medicine, however, teaching kitchens are more than just a place used to teach culinary techniques. They are a “learning laboratory” aimed at changing lifestyle behaviors to ultimately improve one’s health (and thereby help decrease costs related to disease management as well as disease prevention and health maintenance).

Photography by Douglas Gayeton - click to enlarge
Today’s teaching kitchens, which already exist in hospitals, medical schools, corporate worksites, colleges, K-12 schools, retirement facilities, YMCA’s and across the US VA system, typically include most or all of the following educational components:
  • – nutrition education
  • – culinary instruction
  • – movement and exercise guidance
  • – mindfulness training
  • – learning to make optimal use of web based tools
  • – learning to change behaviors- for the better- using motivational interviewing strategies and health coaching techniques

Some teaching kitchens are “built-in”, whereas others are “pop-ups” or “mobile” and therefore less costly. Dozens currently exist and hundreds more are being planned across the US and globally. Importantly, all include more than just a “kitchen.”

Many teaching kitchens can teach people to "eat, move and think more healthfully."

The 30+ teaching kitchens associated with the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative (www.tkcollaborative.org) are working to collectively develop best practices and to demonstrate, through research, that teaching kitchen curricula have the potential to predictably- and sustainably- change self-care behaviors, health outcomes, and, ultimately, the cost of health care, and quality of life, for patients, employees, students, families and society at large.

Food for Life

The Teaching Kitchen at Boston Medical Center is about much more than a meal

The Teaching Kitchen at Boston Medical Center (BMC) serves thousands of patients each year and hosts an average of 25 classes per month for patients with obesity, hypertension, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic pain, substance use disorder, disabilities, and more. The Teaching Kitchen also partners with department support groups to provide culinary and nutritional education for patients with type 2 diabetes, pregnant moms, and bariatric weight loss surgery preparation. Patients learn how to help treat and manage their conditions by first recognizing the importance of eating whole and healthy foods and second developing the necessary culinary skills to prepare their own nourishing meals utilizing food from the BMC food pantry.

Information Artwork by Douglas Gayeton - click to enlarge
A number of initiatives also provide culinary education for young people, including a summer camp with children from 10 different public schools in Boston, a class for families called “Family Fun with Food”, and a class for teenagers called “Teen Battle Chef”.

The teaching kitchen also offers team-building classes for various departments at BMC, culinary skills classes, and classes for healthcare professionals, including an “Eat to Treat” program for first year medical students at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Dietitians and physicians can also refer patients, as part of their treatment plans, to attend classes at the Teaching Kitchen. Research studies are currently underway with Boston Medical Center’s Endocrinology, Obstetrics and Gynecology departments, as well as investigating the overall efficacy of using teaching kitchens as an integrative intervention.

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