Introducing “Cook, Eat & Learn Sessions” (CELS)

This fall and winter, six Georgetown University medical students will meet with lower-income Washington DC families participating in Learning Life’s Citizen Diplomacy Initiative (CDI) to conduct what we call “cook, eat and learn sessions” or CELS.  The CELS will support the American families engaged in our CDI food culture project in learning about nutrition and differences in shopping, cooking and eating practices internationally.

The 6 Georgetown Medical Students and StaffEach year, first-year Georgetown University medical students are required to complete a community-based learning (CBL) course.  Through the course, students gain community-based experience about the “social determinants of health” — socio-economic factors like employment, housing, transportation, education, and access to supermarkets — as they assist community organizations by educating and/or conducting basic health exams with lower-income DC residents.  This fall is the first time students in the CBL course will be volunteering with Learning Life.

If all goes according to plan, the medical students, working in pairs — Claire and Matt, Nikita and George, Dahlia and Amna — will meet with five CDI families, one at a time, at their respective homes to (1) cook a meal that is healthy, cheap, tasty, foreign and easy to make, and (2) during the meal make a Powerpoint presentation about their experience of foreign food cultures while traveling or living abroad.  The students (featured in the above photo along with their faculty lead, Dr. Kim Bullock, and Learning Life Director, Paul Lachelier) all elected into conducting the CELS given their interest in food, nutrition and/or travel.

“DC, like so many cities worldwide, is highly segregated by class and race.  People of different socio-economic status may cross Supermarket nutrition tourpaths as strangers or at best polite acquaintances on the street, in stores, or at work, but rarely do they interact meaningfully, let alone cook and eat together.  CELS are intended to bridge that socio-economic divide via something all humans do — food — while giving lower-income families the opportunity to learn a little about nutrition, healthy cooking, and food cultures in other countries,” explains Learning Life Director, Paul Lachelier.

“Our students are excited to participate in the CELS.  I anticipate they will learn just as much from the experience as the families will,” said Dr. Bullock, who is also a practicing doctor, professor, and Director of the Community Health Division at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

CELS follow on several supermarket nutrition tours Learning Life volunteers conducted with some of our American families this summer to teach them about nutrition labeling and healthier food shopping, and to try new fruits, like kiwi, mango, pomegranates and dragon fruit (see the above photo).