Healthy Kitchens Make Healthy Cities
By Ken Walker-
Recently I attended a free seminar on men’s health and nutrition at Huntington’s Kitchen. The life of this sparkling facility originated as the cooking studio during filming of the ABC Network’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.
While this was only the latest of several visits to this downtown storefront space, this trip gave me a new appreciation for what an incredible development this facility has become. This is what a first-class community resource looks—and feels—like.
As related in Winning the Food Fight, this all started during filming. At a dinner cooked and served by high school students, local leaders decided they needed to do something to sustain the momentum generated by the TV show.
Yvonne Jones, director of Ebenezer Medical Outreach, stepped forward to offer her ministry’s resources to operate the kitchen.
She deserves a hearty round of applause for responding at such a crucial time. So does Cabell-Huntington Hospital, whose financial support keep the lights on during its first three years of operation.
However, with the onset of changes in healthcare nationwide, Ebenezer needed to focus its attentions on its primary mission. Last August, the hospital took over operations and has since expanded the program.
More cooking classes are available and aren’t the only thing offered now. During January the kitchen is hosting various classes for children, the health seminar I attended (with one for women on Feb. 4), a weekly series on such cooking basics as chicken and soups, and a healthy eating plan for diabetics.
Thanks to a grant from the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, it is also hosting four classes for students from a private school to educate them about fruits and vegetables.
Into the Future
Of course, in the never-ending battle for healthy living, we can all use timely reminders, not to mention new insights. I learned about some developments in preventive care and possible alternatives in my quest for healthy eating.
However, what struck me that night as I glanced around was the upgrade in appearance. While the room had always been attractive, it seemed to shine more brightly, with a more professional look and feel to it. I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific, yet I could sense that this facility has taken a step into the future.
It is so easy to take something for granted when it is at our fingertips, but Huntington’s Kitchen is the kind of facility residents should treasure. There are communities nationwide who would love to have this kind of resource in their own backyard.
Reaping a Blessing
Our area received a black eye when the Centers for Disease Control issued its report about Huntington and the surrounding Tri-State Area being the unhealthiest in the nation.
Ironically, that report appeared during my participation in a lifestyle program where I learned to finally reverse my decades-long battle with obesity.
Fast forward more than five years and you can see how what started out as a nationwide embarrassment has turned into a blessing. Granted, Jamie Oliver played a crucial role in shining a spotlight on Huntington. But:
- Had it not been for Steve Willis addressing this problem at a time when few people had the courage…
- Had it not been for his church starting the classes that later became the subject of nationwide news reports that caught Oliver’s attention…
- Had it not been for hundreds of individuals, businesses and organizations across the area who also joined in this effort…
Then today we wouldn’t be enjoying the benefits of a place like Huntington’s Kitchen. From first-hand experience, I can assure you that feels good.