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VA’s "Healthy Teaching Kitchens" benefit from holistic approach

The HTK program spanning 40 states helps educate older veterans on improving nutrition for healthy aging, and recent program quality improvement efforts inform HTK nutrition education by taking into account other issues facing older Americans

Philadelphia – WEBWIRE

Over the next decade, older adults will grow to become 20 percent of the US population. A new paper in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, published by Elsevier, found Healthy Teaching Kitchen programs are great vehicles for nutrition education specifically among older veterans.

Veterans Affairs’ Healthy Teaching Kitchen is an interactive nutrition education program offered by the Veterans Health Administration’s Nutrition and Food Services Department that addresses several aging-related issues like social connection, nutrition, and self-care.

“Each class, we learn, cook, and eat,” one veteran said, adding they enjoyed “having the cooking steps explained as they were done and being able to eat it.”

“It showed me that I can plan and make my meal with healthy choices [without getting] real expensive,” said another.

Nutrition needs to be supported by a high-quality diet that meets requirements for both micronutrients (e.g., vitamins C, A, D, calcium, iron) and macronutrients (e.g., protein, whole grains, carbs). This is especially important for older adults because poor nutrition increases the risk of aging-related issues like osteoporosis, muscle weakness and falls.

The authors suggest nutrition education for older adults is improved by taking a holistic approach. By applying the 5M Care Philosophy framework that provides a categorical structure for older adults’ complex health needs – Mind, Multi-complexity, Medications, Mobility, and what Matters Most – the issues affecting older adults can be easily addressed.

“Healthy Teaching Kitchens not only focus on participants’ knowledge, but also on supporting practical skills such as kitchen setup, meal experience, grocery shopping, label reading, meal planning, and budgeting,” explained author Marissa Black, MD, MPH, Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Puget Sound Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.

Programming through group classes can address social isolation or be tailored to individuals with mental health issues and/or cognitive impairment to address the “Mind” category. Given many older adults take more than five medications simultaneously or specific medications that affect nutrition, teaching how diet, disease, and medications interact and affect participants’ daily choices is key for the “Medications” category. Authors found using this simple framework for future nutrition and cooking educational programming may benefit the geriatric population.

The program got largely positive reviews from its attendees.

“I feel very blessed and fortunate to have experienced this,” one said in the review process. “As I see it, the teachers – while not being aware of it – were actually doing ministry. I don’t mean religious; ministry to me is when people act out and share their skills and time with others. They are acting in love, and that is what life is all about.”

The Healthy Teaching Kitchen program at the VA is part of the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative, a collaboration through the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America with the goal of learning best practices and expanding research of Teaching Kitchen programs. The collaborative plans to do future research in this area.


The article is “How to Ensure That Teaching Kitchens Are Age-Friendly,” by Marissa Black, MD, MPH; Robin LaCroix, RD, CSO; Katherine Ritchey, DO, MPH; Dana Herring, MS, RDN; and Stephen Thielke, MD, MS ( It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 52, issue 2 (February 2020), published by Elsevier.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Black and other information for journalists are available at Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media with permission from Eileen Leahy.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society’s official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirectScopusSciValClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray’s Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

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