Friedman School students, Alexis Cole and Jennifer Pethan recently collaborated with Jason Evans, Dean of the College of Food Innovation and Technology at Johnson and Wales University, to produce their latest research publication, "The Role of Agricultural Systems in Teaching Kitchens," which was featured in Nutrients. The students, both currently enrolled in the Agriculture, Food, and Environment (AFE) program, highlighted the importance of incorporating local agricultural systems into teaching kitchens. Their passion for the project was driven by the desire to bridge gaps in local food systems by making new connections at the intersection of health, nutrition, and agriculture.
What was the study about and how was it structured?
The focal point of the research revolved around the concept of using teaching kitchens as a conduit for connecting local agriculture to communities and healthcare systems. Teaching kitchens are often described as learning laboratories for life skills. The Teaching Kitchen Collaborative (TKC) defines teaching kitchens as spaces that provide guidance on fundamental cooking techniques and other self-care subjects such as improved nutrition and physical activity.
The students observed a noticeable gap between healthcare and agricultural systems, in providing patients with nourishing food from local, regenerative food to prevent and treat disease. The research identified teaching kitchens as a pivotal platform to bridge this divide. This approach also emphasized the role of food as medicine, exploring modalities that could transform teaching kitchens into dynamic spaces for holistic health and nutrition education.
What are the insights + takeaways?
One key insight highlighted by the study was the need to elevate certain roles, particularly chefs, within the food system when integrating health and agriculture. Recognizing that both the individuals growing and cooking the food played vital roles, the students stressed the importance of nutritious yet delicious offerings. They argued that teaching kitchens, especially in their pilot phase, had the potential to revolutionize the way these sectors collaborate.
The potential for natural collaborations extended beyond the immediate impact on research opportunities at the school to positively influence community health. As part of their commitment to the cause, the students actively worked towards the establishment of pilot teaching kitchens at the Friedman School of Nutrition.
These proposed kitchens could not only become spaces for experimentation and innovation but could also act as a catalyzing space where collaborations featuring diverse expertise would be able to address challenges that can feel insurmountable for individuals working in isolation.