In New York City, Choosing Healthy and Active Lifestyles for Kids (CHALK) is looking to transform healthcare’s role in community wellness with a food as medicine model. To advance this work they offer a training program to help pediatric residents better understand social determinants of health and the importance of interdisciplinary intervention.

CHALK is an obesity prevention program in collaboration with the Division of Community and Population Health at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC). Kyle Murray, Community Program Lead at CHALK, tells Food Tank that their workshop “serves as an entry point to CHALK’s expansive community work for the residents.”

The program is led by Murray, along with his colleague Dr. Ileana Vargas, an endocrinologist from the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. Offered monthly, the 2.5-hour workshop, complete with a cooking demonstration, is attended by every class of pediatric residents at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

The workshop focuses on nutrition education strategies, and provides pediatricians with support in motivational interviewing—a client-centered counseling approach that takes a problem-solving approach—along with culinary medicine, and culturally competent medical nutrition therapy. By emphasizing food is medicine and challenging the typical nutrition education model, this training works to deepen the impact of clinical care plans and interventions.

According to Murray, social determinants of health, which can include a patient’s long commute, low wages and/or access to healthy food, can drive families towards convenient, low-cost, and often unhealthy, ultra-processed foods. This lack of resources, time, or money can also potentially lead to higher rates of chronic diseases.

By addressing social determinants of health alongside individual behaviors, CHALK advocates for sustainable, health-boosting dietary changes, offering support to families facing the daily challenges of being food insecure or other uncertainties. “By bridging the gap between the community work and the clinical work, while training pediatricians to lead on social drivers of health and interdisciplinary intervention, food as medicine becomes something more than a cliché,” Murray tells Food Tank.

Read the full article about food and wellness by Grace Fang at Food Tank.