High School Healthcare Career Exploration Program
In 2023-2024, Common Threads will focus on the successful continuation of its innovative high school pilot program at Dorsey High School and Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies. Participating youth will complete an after school culinary medicine program that builds hands-on cooking skills and introduces participants to career pathways in health and nutrition. After completing the program, students will co-lead nutrition education lessons at local elementary schools through a community internship.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
K-12 STEAM Education
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Pilot or new project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
According to a 2022 community stakeholder interview by the Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, lack of access to healthy food is a significant contributor to cancer, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Additionally 80% of LAUSD students are on the free and reduced price lunch program and data shows that 14% of students are overweight and 20% of students have obesity. The same study shows that only 36%-39% of students eat an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables daily. Many socioeconomic factors determine the poor health outcomes for students and their families including; access to healthy foods, low income, basic nutrition knowledge, cooking skills, and quality, regular health care. Common Threads' high school healthcare career program, the Kitchen Clinic, aims to address these social determinants through nutrition education, healthy food access, cooking skills, and career pathways for students to become a part of the solution.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
The Kitchen Clinic pilot will enter its second year in Los Angeles at Susan Miller Dorsey High School and the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES) during the 2023-24 school year. In collaboration with each school, we will offer a program model with dual objectives: Engage two classes of 15 high school students each in ten - 2 hour lessons of cooking and nutrition education that feature guest instructors from the healthcare sector who co-facilitate lessons and share career experiences and insights. In the kitchen, students will learn how to follow a recipe, prepare and cook ingredients, and learn how those foods contribute to wellness and combat diet related disease. Following the ten lesson course Common Threads will offer internships to HS students in the program that allow them to teach eight Small Bites classes to elementary and middle school students in nearby LAUSD schools. Small Bites is an 8 lesson series that teaches basic nutrition knowledge and includes a hands-on healthy snack making component. The internship program will reach 160 additional elementary and middle school students with 1,400 hours of programming. High School students will build personal nutrition and culinary skills through hands-on cooking classes; be exposed to nutrition related healthcare careers through job shadowing and internships; and foster healthy communication skills as HS students co-teach health-centric lessons to elementary and middle school students.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
This pilot has two goals, the primary objective is fostering an understanding of the longer-term relationship between diet and disease in high school youth to align with the skills needed for lifelong healthy eating habits and culinary skills. The secondary goal is to increase interest in healthcare careers where the application of culinary medicine advances positive patient outcomes. The Kitchen Clinic is part of our longer term vision for healthcare in LA County which is to improve non-clinical patient care by raising the standard of care for patients, as it relates to diet and disease prevention and management through the adoption of nutrition and culinary medicine. The Kitchen Clinic supports this vision by building a pipeline of healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills required to adopt nutrition as part of the standard of care for all patients. Our vision is to build a strong pipeline of nutrition minded future healthcare providers in LA.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
In year one of the pilot, CT partnered with UCANR to provide external research and evaluation of the program. The evaluation goals in the first year included collecting qualitative feedback from students and key stakeholders to inform future iterations of the program as well as developing a survey tool to assess program outcomes. Currently, researchers are analyzing data gained from pilot surveys, observations, and stakeholder interviews. Preliminary findings indicate that the students increased their understanding of the connection between nutrition and chronic disease as well as improved their cooking self-efficacy. Surveys indicated, more speakers reflective of their backgrounds would increase interest in the healthcare field and that they preferred recipes including meat versus the largely plant-based recipes that were featured in year 1. We intend to publish the final report in an academic journal to further contribute to the fields of culinary medicine and nutrition education.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 212