Children of All Abilities Learn to Cook Tasty, Nutritious Foods in Hannah’s Kitchen at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
Emily Ho / RDN Wellness Services, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
October 19, 2022
Hannah’s Kitchen is a free cooking class for children ages 2 to 12. Culinary classes teach nutritious recipes through a unique curated experience led by registered dietitians from the Wellness Services department at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Now, with support from the Inclusive Healthy Communities program, this important health education program is available to children of all abilities.
Cooking in Hannah’s Kitchen is an opportunity to introduce children to the kitchen and develop life-long skills. Toddlers practice their mixings skills, preschoolers are introduced to measuring tools, and adolescents explore new fruits, vegetables, and whole grains together.
As a way to expand inclusivity across all communities, our registered dietitians partnered with recreational therapists from Children’s Specialized Hospital to expand their competencies and provide effective culinary programming for children with disabilities.
Utilizing a “Train the Trainer” model, thorough presentations included diagnostic criteria, signs and symptoms, and areas of focus for various disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Most important, presentations included real case studies and ways to support students that prevent or de-escalate times of crisis during class.
Additionally, staff at Children’s Specialized Hospital audited our existing kitchen equipment and provided recommendations on equipment purchases allowing children with disabilities to feel confident in the kitchen. Various items such as non-slip cutting boards, plastic safety knives, foam tubing grips, and Easyhold grip straps, support independent participation and enhance the learning experience with minimal assistance. Beyond the initial training phase, our partnership with Children’s Specialized Hospital continues with weekly on-site staff support during Hannah’s Kitchen programming, which allows our team to lean on the disabilities experts as we get comfortable working with new students.
We are eager to continue to grow this program to serve all children in the Greater Newark area who have a love for food and cooking as much as we do. We are grateful for our partners at Children’s Specialized Hospital and the Inclusive Healthy Communities grant program, which has allowed our staff to undergo training and work alongside disabilities experts to analyze our programming through a new lens. Over the second half of the grant period, we strive to hone our skills and develop resources to help replicate inclusive culinary programming in health care.
Hannah’s Kitchen is located at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Reverend Dr. Ronald B. Christian Community Health & Wellness Center. Teaching children culinary life skills and exposing them to new, nutrient dense foods at Hannah’s Kitchen is made possible by the Hannah Peretsman Breene Foundation, with expansion funding from the NJ Department of Human Services, Division of Disability Services, Inclusive Healthy Communities (IHC) grant program.
For more information on Hannah’s Kitchen inclusive culinary programming, or food access initiatives at NBIMC, contact Molly Fallon at Molly.Fallon@rwjbh.org or 973-926-7371.