The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio wants to improve kids’ health through proper nutrition. To that end, the medical facility announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio to establish a teaching kitchen at the downtown hospital to offer nutrition and cooking courses to patients and the community, officials announced Wednesday. The hospital also is creating a 2.4-acre teaching garden adjacent to the kitchen. Both the kitchen and garden are under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2015.

The Goldsbury Foundation gave Christus a $20 million gift last year towards its conversion of its downtown campus into the Children’s Hospital. Of that, $5 million was earmarked for health and wellness initiatives and now is being used for the culinary health and education program. The hospital also is working with H-E-B to launch Prescriptions for Produce, a program in which the facility’s physicians can give patients vouchers for fruits and vegetables to be redeemed at H-E-B stores. The goal is to prevent childhood obesity and the associated chronic diseases by teaching kids about healthful diets and giving them the tools to prepare nutritious food.

“We spend a lot of time in this hospital getting kids better, but what we’d really like to do is put ourselves out of business, because the essence of pediatrics is prevention,” said Dr. Mark Gilger, chief pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

“Many children and young adults I have treated over the past 30 years could have benefited from nutritional intervention. The connection our profession is starting to make between what we eat and our health and wellbeing is being examined by the medical community in ways we have never dreamed of.”

The Culinary Institute of America designed the kitchen and will team up with Children’s Hospital of San Antonio clinical experts and food services provider Aramark to create the nutrition and cooking classes.

“Over recent decades, whether it’s the evolution of technology, industrialization, the societal norms that have evolved over the past decades, it’s created this unfathomable disconnect between what we put in our bodies and the condition of our health and wellbeing,” said David Kellaway, managing director of the Culinary Institute of America-San Antonio. The teaching kitchen will be instrumental in teaching the community the awareness of the relationship between food and health, he said. The organic vegetable and herb garden, designed by Overland Partners Architects and Co’Design, will bring “the healing work of nature” to the downtown campus for patients and families to learn, play and meditate, said John Bel, president of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Foundation. The Children’s Hospital will team up with community organizations including the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, KIPP Academy, the San Antonio Food Bank and Good Samaritan Community Services to pilot health and nutrition curriculum and workshops.

“This innovative program, we feel, can put San Antonio on the forefront of culinary medicine in the United States,” said Pat Carrier, president and chief executive officer of Christus Santa Rosa Health System, which owns the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. The teaching kitchen and garden will be the first of their kind at a children’s hospital in San Antonio, Carrier said. The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio also sponsored the Demonstration Kitchen and the Toddler Discovery Garden in the new H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit at the Witte Museum, which promotes healthful lifestyles.

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