Healthy Teaching Kitchens

3,844 classes from 83 sites across the United States and counting

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.

Built-in kitchens and mobile carts in 83 hospitals and outpatient clinics

IMPACT

For single participants living alone, our class may be the biggest social focus of the week.

Robin LaCroix, RD

Publications

Cross S, Kurmas N, Byrne C, Julius M, Burant C, Utech A, Aoun A. Diabetes Self-Management Education Support Healthy Teaching Kitchen Cooking Classes Delivered Using a Telehealth Technology. Sci Diabetes Self Manag Care. 2021 Jun;47(3):199-206. 

Schlueter R, Calhoun B, Harned E, Gore S. A VA Health Care Innovation: Healthier Kidneys Through Your Kitchen-Earlier Nutrition Intervention for Chronic Kidney Disease. J Ren Nutr. 2021 Jan;31(1):35-38. 

Black M, LaCroix R, Ritchey K, Herring D, Thielke S, How to Ensure That Teaching Kitchens Are Age-Friendly. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2020;52(2)187-194. 

Black, M., LaCroix, R., Hoerster, K., Chen, S., Ritchey, K., Souza, M., Utech, A., & Thielke, S. Healthy Teaching Kitchen Programs: Experiential Nutrition Education Across Veterans Health Administration, 2018. Am J Public Health, 2019;109(12), 1718–1721. 

Dexter AS, Pope JF, Erickson D, Fontenot C, Ollendike E, Walker E. Cooking Education Improves Cooking Confidence and Dietary Habits in Veterans. Diabetes Educ. 2019 Aug;45(4):442-449. 

Byrne C, Kurmas N, Burant CJ, Utech A, Steiber A, Julius M. Cooking Classes: A Diabetes Self-Management Support Intervention Enhancing Clinical Values. Diabetes Educ. 2017 Dec;43(6):600-607.

Press

Daily Local News, “Local veterans benefit from Coatesville VA’s green practices,” September 2021

The Times-Gazette, “VA healthy kitchen program,” August 2021

Litter Media, “V.A. Offers Virtual Healthy Teaching Kitchen For Women Female Vets” August 2021

VAntage Point, “Men’s Health Month: Yes, you can cook it yourself,” June 2021 

Milwaukee VA Medical Center Features, “Dietitians deliver despite COVID restrictions,” March 2021

Orlando Sentinel, “VA program teaches veterans how to eat well, cook healthy and chop a broccoli,” February 2020

Valley News, “VA Hospital program teaches veterans healthy cooking and eating,” November 2019

VAntage Point, “VA takes nutrition counseling out of the office and into the kitchen,” October 2019