Influencing Healthy Eating Habits with an Audience of 9 Million
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) department develops and provides comprehensive evidence-based nutritional services for Veterans and their families across VHA’s health care facilities. The Healthy Teaching Kitchen program grew out of a vision by NFS leadership that began in 2004. As the largest integrated health care system in the country, the VHA has exceptional reach; it has made it policy for each site to have a teaching kitchen to disseminate these critical life skills to every person it encounters. Further, the program has been embedded into the medical program and clinical outcomes.
Healthy Teaching Kitchens across the country are empowering veterans and their families to select, prepare, and taste healthy foods in hands-on cooking or demonstrations; several also have gardens. The dietitians who run the Healthy Teaching Kitchen program across the VHA are well-networked and in frequent communication. They collaborated to create a standard curriculum that has resulted in a six-session course with discussion questions and mindful eating activities. Beginning virtual programming has helped reach people for whom attending a live class would be too far to travel. At the healthy teaching kitchens across the VHA, dietitians say the most satisfying part is seeing people reconnecting with the enjoyment of eating and getting back in touch with their creativity.