COD, Hospice Partnership Combines Cooking With Healing
By Brian Kleemann
A new partnership between the College of DuPage Culinary Arts program and Alexian Brothers Hospice combines cooking instruction with support for men and women moving past the death of their spouses.
Each semester, David Kramer, Associate Professor of Culinary Arts, and Laura Lerdal, Culinary Market Supervisor and Lab Coordinator, present “Culinary Grief Therapy,” a free workshop that focuses on cooking techniques for one. Participants also have a chance to help each other as they learn to live on their own.
Click here for photos from the April demonstration. The next session is scheduled for Friday, July 22.
“You can see that the participants are happy to meet each other and learn these new skills,” Kramer said. “Being with people in a similar emotional place provides comfort.”
Heather Nickrand, Bereavement Coordinator with Alexian Brothers Hospice, began to notice that cooking was a consistent topic with her hospice patients and spouses. Sessions often would be structured to address this concern, and she realized that a post-hospice class could help spouses discover a new purpose.
“I called numerous organizations about classes but had a hard time getting across what I was wanted,” she said. “Some people thought I was asking for a cooking class using high-end recipes with 20 ingredients, while others didn’t grasp the need to address the grieving aspects. Everything was too far or too much money or too challenging.
“But then I contacted College of DuPage and Laura called back right away. She was ecstatic and understood the vision that I had.”
Lerdal immediately connected to the need for this type of class because several close family members had gone through hospice care.
“This is very personal to me,” she said. “When you are a caregiver, you are not thinking of food or taking care of yourself, so there’s no joy when you finally get into the kitchen. And it’s tricky cooking just for yourself. I knew we could help.”
Lerdal approached Kramer and together they created a one-day free demonstration initially called “Cooking for 1.” Offered this past September, the workshop attracted 20 people.
“We demonstrated recipes that were simple, approachable and healthy,” Kramer said. “We also discussed how to incorporate recipe items into as many meals as possible, how to portion properly and when to buy precut products. I had one gentleman, whose wife took care of the cooking before passing away, tell me that this workshop made him feel better about being on his own.”
A second workshop in December focused on holiday cookies. Participants brought their favorite recipes along with family stories about them, which then were bound and presented to each person.
The most recent demonstration on weekly meal planning attracted more than 65 people, including two from other hospice programs interested in offering similar workshops. Nickrand said the popularity reflects the need and how it’s providing help on many levels.
“A sense of smell can bring back a memory that can be part of the healing process,” she said. “You can also honor someone through food, and these are simple, inexpensive recipes that keeps survivors from avoiding the kitchen.”
Lerdal sees food as a way of taking care of people and appreciates the many positive comments they have received from participants.
“These individuals are ready to get out again,” she said. “College of DuPage is in a position to help. The community supported us when the Culinary & Hospitality Center was constructed, and we’re proud to give back to the community through this partnership with Alexian Brothers Hospice.”
For more information about “Culinary Grief Therapy” sessions, call (630) 233-5119 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about the Culinary Arts program at College of DuPage, visit www.cod.edu/programs/culinary, email email@example.com or call (630) 942-2502.
Pictured: David Kramer, Associate Professor of Culinary Arts, leads a recent Culinary Grief Therapy session in the Culinary & Hospitality Center at College of DuPage. (Photo by Press Photography Network/Special to College of DuPage)
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