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Using Culinary Medicine to Learn About Food Insecurity

Feb. 6, 2023

In the latest session of Eat Well: Culinary Medicine — an educational offering within the Department of Pediatrics that focuses on how food impacts health and how to incorporate nutrition and healthy eating practices into different lifestyles — pediatric trainees focused on food insecurity.

Collage of pediatric trainees participating in a Culinary Medicine session, interacting with food and cooking utensils.

The session was led by pediatric hospitalist Hanh Keyburn, D.O., and registered dietitian Keli Hawthorne, M.S., and it took place in person in the Department of Nutritional Sciences’ teaching kitchen, where participants were able to taste each other’s food creations during discussions.

Pediatric hospital medicine fellow Kelsey Fath, M.D., provided key curriculum content that allowed participants to learn about food deserts, food swamps, associations with obesity and resources for patients for patients and families with food insecurity beyond programs such as SNAP and WIC.

Trainees cooked in pairs and made Mediterranean lentil salad (a recipe designed by a UT nutrition intern for the Central Texas Food Bank), chicken thighs in chipotle adobo sauce, lentil and chickpea pasta with white beans and vegetables, and a pumpkin parfait with homemade whipped cream.

These recipes aligned with the session’s discussion on food affordability and balanced nutrition. After the session, participants reported that learning practical cooking techniques and nutrition knowledge gave them more confidence in talking to patients and families about food insecurity and nutrition.

UT nutrition students intending on becoming registered dietitians also participated in the session, and they provided knowledge on how certain nutrients within the discussed recipes impact health. Their presence added an interprofessional dynamic to the session and showed how physicians and dietitians can partner in inpatient and outpatient settings.