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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).
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.”
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.
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.