New Mobile Education Kitchen

As researchers begin to unlock the complex relationship between nutrition and cancer, the public increasingly turns to experts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) for guidance.

Which foods have demonstrated cancer-preventive properties in research, and which may increase cancer risk? And when a person has received a cancer diagnosis, how should his or her diet change?

Thanks to a generous gift from Celebration for Life, the signature annual fundraising event for the James Fund for Life, the OSUCCC – James will help to address these issues and more through its new mobile education kitchen. Not to be confused with the typical retail food trucks that are so popular these days, the OSUCCC – James mobile kitchen will visit community festivals, fairs, athletic events and more to deliver hands-on nutrition education in places where the public gathers. Teams including chefs and dietitians, as well as Ohio State students completing their dietetic internships, will staff the kitchen, offering cooking demonstrations, food samples and nutrition information.

The goal, says Drew Patterson, culinary director for Nutrition Services at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, is to focus on health and wellness from foods in general — with a focus on nutrition as it relates to cancer. This means directing attention to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s nutritional recommendations and demonstrating flavor-filled ways those foods can be prepared. “One of the big challenges we run across in patients with a cancer diagnosis is that there is variability in individual diets,” says Patterson. “Just like there is no routine cancer, there is also no routine diet plan. What people eat, when they can eat and what they can tolerate can be completely different for every person.”

The kitchen will introduce people to a multitude of options and flavor profiles to optimize their food intake. “We might show three or four different ways to prepare kale or Brussels sprouts so people can get the nutrients they need. Or if they’re more into sweet flavors than savory, we can show how to prepare a grain salad they will enjoy.”

The mobile education kitchen adds to Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s growing repertoire of nutrition-conscious initiatives. At the Michael D. Bloch Café on the 14th floor of The James, for example, diners may select from a variety of healthy foods on a menu designed to promote fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain salads. More than 85 percent of the products are made from scratch, and the restaurant sources local and sustainable foods as often as possible. “The Bloch Café was the first time we integrated food and nutrition from an educational standpoint in a retail café, and patients, visitors and guests have been drawn to the café because of that,” says Patterson. At Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Brain and Spine Hospital, the NeurOH! BistrOH! offers smoothies and snacks featuring fruits and other ingredients like dark chocolate that have brain-boosting properties.

The new OSUCCC – James mobile education kitchen will build on the momentum of nutrition consciousness the public hungers for, says Patterson, “Obviously, we’ve tapped into something a lot of people see value in, and we’re very excited about finding a fun, exciting way to get nutrition and health information out to people.”

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