Cooking classes may be just the right prescription for new doctors

Doctors in the residency program at Spokane Teaching Health Clinic are getting a little hands-on cooking experience as part of their emphasis on nutrition as a clinical intervention for patients.

Residents made black bean burgers and split pea guacamole in The Kitchen at Second Harvest recently. Those are some of the dishes prepared at community cooking classes offered at Second Harvest. The free classes are designed to help low-income people cook in a more healthful way using basic ingredients they may receive at a food bank or pantry and to encourage them to use a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables they may not be accustomed to using.

Since diet is so closely linked to a variety of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer and obesity, good nutrition is increasingly part of many health prescriptions. The class exposed doctors to an important resource for people who are food insecure and/or who are trying to develop healthy eating habits.

“It would never have occurred to me to refer someone to this,” said Scott Tetz, a resident in internal medicine.

Julius Grecu, a psychiatry resident added, “The personal experience was great. I can tell my patients I’ve been (to a cooking class).”

Incorporating Second Harvest cooking classes as an educational tool for doctors is part of a multifocal learning model at Spokane Teaching Health Clinic. Residents study nutrition, social determinates of health and food insecurity. The collaboration between the clinic and Second Harvest makes sense as the clinic’s patient population includes many of the same people that Second Harvest sees in its food bank lines: underserved and economically disadvantaged.

Second Harvest is located just down the road from the clinic and is on a bus line, so patients referred to a community cooking class don’t have far to go. They leave the class with more than just cooking knowledge. Class participants enjoy a true sense of community as they sit down together to enjoy simple but flavorful foods made with whole, fresh ingredients—foods that today are the norm, not the exception, at Second Harvest partner food banks and pantries, and Mobile Market food distributions.

“I was pleasantly surprised. It was great tasting food,” said internal medicine resident Jose Gomez.