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University News

UMass Amherst to Host Inaugural Healthcare Culinary Conference Aimed at Medical Professionals

The Healthcare Culinary Conference wordmark

Motivated by the principle that all people should have access to good food for good health, the School of Public Health and Health Sciences has cooked up a new offering for healthcare professionals as part of the 30th annual Chef Culinary Conference 2024, hosted by UMass Dining.

The Healthcare Culinary Conference: Bridging Healthcare, Food and Community will serve as a model integrated academic-community effort to improve health outcomes, alleviate food insecurity and promote the “food is medicine” movement, says Anna Maria Siega-Riz, dean of SPHHS and a renowned expert in maternal and child nutrition.

“We are excited to be offering this program to all healthcare providers in the commonwealth,” Siega-Riz says. “The state has been extremely progressive in its public policies that support various programs for increasing food security and access to healthy food within communities. Connecting the dots between the social determinants of health, of which food is one, with education for healthcare practitioners around culinary medicine will enhance the ability to improve population health and well-being.”

The conference, which runs Wednesday and Thursday, June 5-6, will showcase a culinary medicine program designed to teach healthcare professionals about dietary guidelines, cultural food preferences, food systems, and more. Register here.

A box of vegetables

Attendees will hear from food science and nutrition experts at UMass Amherst and from award-winning chefs and community partners, all working together to alleviate food and nutrition insecurity and advance food safety and sustainability. The experts will share ways to address the barriers that many people face in obtaining and preparing food for good health, and for the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases.

The conference kicks off with a morning tour of a local farm and a conversation with Agriculture Extension Services professionals. 

Discussions and presentations will help attendees learn how to help their patients improve their eating behaviors despite economic restraints and while respecting the cultural preferences of various community members living in Western Massachusetts. They also will have hands-on opportunities to prepare healthy and affordable food, guided by leaders in the field, including:

  • Ana Jaramillo, a Colombian chef, and co-owner of the restaurant Tamales Exquisitos and a certified community health worker at the Holyoke Health Center.
  • Nyanyika Banda, a professional Malawian-American chef, historian, writer, educator, public speaker and author of “Marvel’s Black Panther Official Wakanda Cookbook.”
  • Breana Killeen, owner/operator of Killeen Crossroads Farm in Shelburne, VT; and
  • Michel Nischan, co-founder and chair of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit food-equity organization that helps address diet-related disease by helping low-income Americans with “nutrition insecurity” buy and eat fruits and vegetables. Nischan also will give a keynote address, “Advocating for Equitable Food Access.”

Other key speakers include consultant Milton Stokes, senior director of Food and Nutrition for the International Food Information Council, who will discuss “Consumer Food and Health Perspectives.” Stokes works at the intersection of food, agriculture and nutrition, advancing the council’s mission of communicating science-based information on food safety, nutrition and sustainable food systems.

UMass Amherst speakers will include Siega-Riz, a member of the Federal Advisory Committee for the Dietary Guidelines in 2015 who will speak on the “Evolution of the Dietary Guidelines”; and food scientists David Julian McClements and Alissa Nolden, who respectively will present “Designing Health: Next-generation Plant-based Foods” and “The Sensory Importance of Food.”

Lorraine Cordeiro, a UMass Amherst nutritionist, and Kurt Hager, a UMass Chan Medical School instructor, will discuss “Food Insecurity and the Impact of MassHealth Flexible Services.” 

“We hope many current and future healthcare providers will take advantage of having this conference at UMass, which offers obtaining a unique skill set at an affordable price embedded in a successful and nationally renowned culinary conference for chefs in higher education,” Siega-Riz says. “It promises to be stimulating, engaging and fun. What is not to love about preparing yummy food while learning about its nutritional value?”