What is a teaching kitchen?

A teaching kitchen can be described as a virtual learning laboratory for life skills. As envisioned, teaching kitchens offer education in basic cooking techniques in addition to other self-care topics like enhanced nutrition, mindfulness, physical activity, and behavioral health coaching. While the kitchen itself is an essential component, it is only the “hardware,” while the entire teaching kitchen program can be viewed as the “software” that can be customized for different audiences.

A teaching kitchen is suitable for many groups, including (but not limited to) students of all ages, e.g. K-12, college students, patients, health professionals, employees, community members, retirees, veterans, etc. The audience and unique goals for each specific audience will inform the design of the teaching kitchen and related programming.

To read more descriptions of Dr. Eisenberg’s vision for teaching kitchens, head over to The Nutrition Source.

Why use a teaching kitchen?

With dramatic increases in obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related chronic diseases, innovative educational and experiential strategies are needed that will improve the way people eat, move, and think. A teaching kitchen can be used for a range of goals that must be defined by each organization, but ideally all aim to enhance personal and public health through the adoption of healthier eating and lifestyle habits. Research is currently underway to better understand the potential for teaching kitchen programs to predictably alter personal behaviors, clinical outcomes, and the costs of health care (and the maintenance of health and wellness) for a variety of populations.

How many and what kinds of teaching kitchens exist, and in what kinds of settings?

It’s hard to say exactly how many teaching kitchens exist in the U.S. and around the world, but we can confidently say that the numbers are increasing rapidly! The types of kitchens can vary widely from full built-in kitchens to mobile units to pop-up models, and the settings of these kitchens can include corporate work sites, healthcare organizations, medical schools and universities, schools of public health, public libraries, K-12 schools, Veterans Hospitals, and a wide array of community-based organizations (e.g. YMCA’s and Boys and Girls Clubs). As we started the TKC, we purposefully invited organizations representing a wide range of settings so that we can begin to synthesize shared experiences and best practices to inform the future development of teaching kitchens regionally, nationally, and globally.

How might I start a teaching kitchen in my organization?

We receive a lot of requests from individuals and organizations who are interested in starting a teaching kitchen in their organization and/or community, and we understand that this can be a very overwhelming ambition! A primary goal of the TKC is to summarize best practices among our member organizations and to share this information with all interested parties through this website in the form of toolkits, case studies, and other resources. While we work on building out these resources, we encourage you to browse our database of member organizations to find inspiration from these early-adopters based on what’s available in their profiles, photos, and websites. We also encourage you to make local and regional connections of individuals and organizations who may be interested in partnering with your efforts. If you have the opportunity to attend the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference, many people find that it provides incredible networking and useful connection to national initiatives to inform your work locally. Please email us at info@teachingkitchens.org for specific inquiries and we’ll do the best we can to assist you. 

How can I become a member of the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative?

The TKC was founded on an invitational basis to cultivate a dynamic, action-oriented group of early adopter organizations. An internal membership committee has designed an application and review process for the consideration of new members on an annual basis. Please view more information about membership here

How can I become involved with the work of the Collaborative in ways besides membership?

The TKC is currently exploring opportunities that will allow more people to get involved and benefit from the work and mission of the TKC in ways besides membership. These include but are not limited to volunteering your time with teaching kitchen programs in your area, attending the TKC Research Day in Scotts Valley, CA, in April 2020, and/or providing additional financial support. We are passionate about spreading the use of teaching kitchens for improved public health across many different sectors, so we encourage you to join us in advancing this movement even without being an official member. 

Healthcare professionals interested in registering for the annual Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, should visit www.healthykitchens.org to register. This conference has always sold out, so be sure to register early! 

If you are interested in providing financial support for the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative, please contact David Eisenberg at DavidEisenberg@teachingkitchens.org.

Who is behind the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative?

The TKC was launched by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, The Culinary Institute of America, and Dr. David Eisenberg in 2015. It is now an independent entity and has engaged the Windward Fund as its Fiscal Sponsor. Learn more about the history of the TKC.

How can I tag the TKC in social media posts?

Social media serves as an excellent platform to highlight the amazing work of all our TKC members and to help spread awareness of the teaching kitchen movement. The TKC does not currently operate its own separate social media accounts, but we recommend using the following hashtags when featuring TKC work on your social media channels: #teachingkitchen (more broadly applicable for any teaching kitchen story in action) and #tkcollaborative (more specific to the TKC, participation in our meetings/events, and reference to the larger network). We will integrate a feed into our TKC website that will update automatically with any posts using these hashtags.