Building Well-being and Equity Across the Lifespan Through Research, Service, and Education Centered Around Food
UCLA’s Semel Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI) Center, envisioned and supported by Jane and Terry Semel, prioritizes the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. It is a campus-wide effort to draw upon UCLA’s world renowned research and teaching, to find new and innovative ways to promote living well on campus, and to share that education and research with other communities, both locally and beyond. In collaboration with UCLA Recreation’s Fitwell Program, the Community Programs Office, and many other cross-campus partners and stakeholders, Semel HCI strives to enhance food literacy, reduce food insecurity, and promote nutritious and sustainable food choices to everyone at UCLA. They do this through innovative projects led by students, staff, and faculty across campus, ranging from sustainable gardens, to food-focused courses, to cooking workshops in UCLA’s on-campus Teaching Kitchen and virtually to UCLA students, staff, and K-12th grade students in Los Angeles.
The UCLA Teaching Kitchen emerged as a priority from a 2014 Food Summit hosted by Semel HCI, as well as focus group research at UCLA in 2016 identifying a desire from food insecure students to learn practical food literacy “life skills” to budget and cook meals more effectively. In response, the established on-campus and virtual Teaching Kitchen sessions act as an experiential learning modality for enhancing food literacy, which a growing body of research has also shown to be associated with food security, where people with proficiency in cooking, food preparation, and financial management are less likely to experience food insecurity.
Since its launch in Fall 2019, the UCLA Teaching Kitchen has become a vibrant center of culinary activity on campus and virtually, serving undergraduate and graduate students from disparate fields of study, as well as student-led extracurricular groups, UCLA faculty and staff, UCLA youth campers, and K-12th graders in LAUSD’s Summer Enrichment Programs. The Teaching Kitchen also trains the next generation of health professionals to prepare them to provide realistic guidance on healthy eating to their future patients. Led by Culinary Arts Coordinator Julia Rhoton and guest chefs, dietitians, and physicians, the Teaching Kitchen has hosted over 380 workshops, reaching thousands of participants since its launch and featuring accessible, affordable, and diverse recipes and basic cooking techniques.