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Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Teaching Kitchen

Los Angeles, CA


People served since joining the TKC

Member since 2016

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.

Key Data

  • Before our on-campus Teaching Kitchen opened in Fall 2019, we provided cooking classes through Sur la Table to 85 students, building an evidence base for the value of an on-campus teaching kitchen.
  • Between May 2020 and May 2021 during the pandemic, Semel HCI and the Teaching Kitchen partnered with the Community Programs Office (which runs Basic Needs operations) to provide food insecure students with a grocery gift card (due to campus closure and lack of access to the food closet) and virtual cooking classes (to address food literacy). Overall, this program has served 267 graduate students (including 121 health professional students) and 148 undergraduate students.
  • From Spring 2020 through Summer 2021 populations served through Teaching Kitchen Virtual Workshops included Undergrad Students, Graduate Students, Health Professional Students (Medical School, Nursing School, Dental School, Psychiatric Fellows), Student Groups, UCLA Youth & Family Camps, Adaptive Programs for Disabled Community Members, Office of the Student Body President, Staff Assembly, Faculty Groups, Veteran’s Family Wellness Center, College Bound High Schoolers in Foster Care (FSBGSA), Student Athletes, Clubsports Athletes, LAUSD Students, and other UCLA Community Members.
  • During the pandemic, from March 2020 through June 2021, an average of 21.1 pounds of produce per month (316.5 pounds overall) was donated from the jane b semel HCI Community Garden to graduate students in University Apartments South in response to rising food needs.
  • The Teaching Kitchen has also served around 2000 K-12th grade LAUSD students since 2020 through the summer enrichment program The Science of Food, Nutrition and Culinary Arts.
Quick Facts


As a cross-campus collaborative effort, many stakeholders are involved with the UCLA Teaching Kitchen.

Built-in and virtual in a university setting


Don’t just tell students to eat healthy, show them and give them the skills to make a healthy meal. Even better, give students a break from their computer screens to get their hands dirty, to connect with their peers, and really, to reconnect with food.


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UCLA Newsroom, “A Different Kind of Course Work,” March 2023

Los Angeles Times, “UCLA launches an institute dedicated to food studies,” January 2022

UCLA Newsroom, “UCLA food studies institute to tackle global food challenges,” January 2022

UCLA LiveWell Podcast, Episode 31: “Science and Food,” April 2021

UCLA School of Nursing Magazine, “The Teaching Kitchen,” November 2020

UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine News, “‘Teaching kitchen’ cooks up basics for health sciences students at UCLA,” October 2017

Save the Date:
TKC Symposium &
Annual Members Meeting

November 13-15, 2024
Salt Lake City, UT

Learn more about teaching kitchen innovation.