The new Mobile Education Kitchen started its engine—and handed out tasty samples of freshly made quinoa granola—during a May 11 ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

In attendance were Judy and Steve Tuckerman, founders of Celebration for Life, the annual signature event that benefits The James Fund for Life, established by Abigail and Les Wexner. Celebration for Life has raised $18.9 million since 2002 for technologies and equipment for cancer research and patient care at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

A $500,000 gift from Celebration for Life enabled the purchase of the Mobile Education Kitchen, which educates the public about nutritional health and wellness. Speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, James Interim CEO William Farrar, MD, noted the importance of focusing on nutrition as it relates to cancer prevention. “This includes directing specific attention to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s nutritional recommendations and demonstrating flavor-filled ways these foods can be prepared.”

It’s an exciting concept that the Tuckermans were eager to get behind. In her remarks during the ceremony, Judy described their enthusiasm for the mobile education concept. “When Steve and I learned of the idea to create a Mobile Education Kitchen to help educate patients and the community on healthy eating and cancer-fighting foods, we were sold,” she says. “We knew this was what we wanted the funds from last year’s Celebration for Life event to go toward.”

Sporting a brightly painted display of tantalizing fresh fruits and vegetables along its sides, the mobile kitchen will be hard to miss at events such as community festivals and other places where the public gathers. A team of chefs and dietitians, as well as Ohio State students completing dietetic internships, will offer cooking demonstrations, food samples and nutrition information.

It’s an important and timely mission, given the frequent breakthroughs in nutritional research and updates to dietary recommendations. As OSUCCC Director Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD, noted during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ohio State and the OSUCCC – James have a long history of leading research into cancer preventive foods. “For a number of years our cancer center has researched and published on the cancer-preventive properties of certain foods, such as black raspberries, tomatoes and soy,” he said. “The Mobile Education Kitchen will bring those findings directly to the public.”

Indeed, when it comes to cooking, health and taste do not have to be at odds with each other; ideally they complement one another.

“It’s one thing to tell people how they should eat for optimal health, but teaching them how to cook these foods in a tasty way that results in real diet changes that are sustainable is a very different thing,” says Jim Warner, program director of nutrition services at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “That is where change happens.”

This is the change the Tuckermans and Celebration for Life donors hope the mobile kitchen will help to trigger in central Ohio. “We’re incredibly grateful to the Tuckermans and all of those in the community who support Celebration for Life,” says Pollock. “These purchases are so important because they cover community needs that we could not address without philanthropy.”

Harvesting Healthy Habits

Vegetables, fruits and grains are chock-full of phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring chemicals in plants “that may prevent cancer from occurring or from spreading,” says Dena Champion, MS, RD, LD, an outpatient clinical oncology dietitian at the OSUCCC – James.

Phytochemicals stimulate the immune system, block substances that people eat, drink and breathe from becoming carcinogens, reduce inflammation that can lead to cancer, prevent DNA damage and slow the growth rate of cancer cells, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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