Boston Medical Center (BMC) Teaching Kitchen Spotlight

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH

What they do: The Teaching Kitchen at Boston Medical Center (BMC) helps community members, patients, and staff learn to prepare healthy meals that are medically and culturally appropriate. Community classes focus on building excitement and community engagement around food, while medically-tailored clinical classes are health- and outcomes-oriented for patients with specific health needs and conditions (e.g. diabetes, bariatric weight loss, pregnancy, and cancer). Classes are also offered to staff members during their lunch hour to help them learn healthy eating patterns for their own personal wellness, and a course called Eat to Treat teaches practicing clinicians and medical and dietetic students how to talk about nutrition with their patients. 

The program, which also includes BMC’s Preventive Food Pantry and Rooftop Farm, is part of the hospital’s Nourishing Our Community initiative, which addresses hunger-related illness and malnutrition among its patients. 

How they do it: The Teaching Kitchen offers an average of 20 classes per month, with eight to 12 participants per class. Community members can sign up for classes online. Clinical classes require a physician referral, which is included in the patient’s electronic health records. Teaching Kitchen classes are philanthropically funded and generally offered free of charge. However, patients participating in clinical classes that are co-taught by a physician as well as a culinary dietitian (as opposed to a dietitian alone) may be billed by the physician for their time. 

Classes may be offered in-person on BMC’s campus or virtually. All classes, led by BMC dietitians, begin with a nutrition lesson and include a cooking demonstration and/or hands-on culinary skills training. Participants in virtual classes are provided with the class’s recipe in advance and encouraged to follow along at home, but they also have the option to watch the demonstration and then cook the recipe on their own time. Classes that are held on-site incorporate produce from the Rooftop Farm and ingredients from the Preventive Food Pantry. 

Clinical classes are offered in a multi-class series in order to instill lasting behavior change among participants while staff and community classes are usually single sessions. 

Eat to Treat is offered as a continuing education course for current practitioners or as an optional six-week enrichment seminar for medical and dietetic students. 

Mission: To provide exceptional care without exception; to provide patients with medically and culturally appropriate food, culinary skills, and nutrition education. 

Major Funding: Individual donations

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: Not disclosed 

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect health: BMC and Teaching Kitchen staff believe that leading by example is an important part of culinary medicine. For that reason, the Teaching Kitchen is working to increase cultural humility and representation by engaging community members in decision-making and co-facilitation of programs.

As part of its commitment to community partnership and health, BMC has invested in Nubian Markets, a local grocery store in Nubian Square, Boston, that celebrates the African diaspora through food. 

FACT SHEET:
Location:
Boston Medical Center 
One Boston Medical Center Place
Boston, MA 02118

Core Programs: Culinary and nutrition education

Number of staff: 3

Number of volunteers: 3-5 per quarter

Areas served: Greater Boston region

Year Started: 2008

Teaching Kitchen Manager: Gabrielle Simons MS, RD, LDN

Director of Nutrition Innovation and Implementation: Olivia Thomas MS, RD, LDN

Contact Information: Email: Olivia.Thomas@bmc.org 

Learn More:
Cooking for a Cause: Understanding How Nutrition Impacts Patients (Boston University) 
Eat to Treat: The Methods and Assessments of a Culinary Medicine Seminar for Future Physicians and Practicing Clinicians (Nutrients)
Finding Joy in Food: How Cooking With Others Can Bolster Recovery (Health City) 
The Teaching Kitchen (Boston Medical Center)

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