This past July, in a white stucco Colonial facing Route 202 in Cortlandt Manor, Congresswoman Nita Lowey delivered remarks in a brand-new kitchen brimming with stainless steel and polished wood. “We really have to do something about the increase in disease due to behavior,” she said. Lowey had just finished a tour of an adjacent garden, built in partnership with the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. She was flanked by Peter Kelly, famed Hudson Valley chef and restaurateur, and John C. Federspiel, president of Hudson Valley Hospital Center (HVHC) in Cortlandt Manor.
So what brought all of these seemingly disparate forces together? The Colonial was, of all places, Hudson Valley Hospital Center’s Dempsey House. Lowey had been invited to inaugurate the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen inside, part of HVHC’s program Harvest for Health. Geared toward promoting a proactive approach to well-being, the program comprises cooking classes, twice-monthly farmers’ markets on the premises, a locally sourced meal service for patients and employees, and the Young Chefs of the Hudson Valley program, created to instill in local schoolchildren ages 11 to 13 the importance of healthy eating. Classes range from “Heart-Healthy Meals” to “Could it be Gluten-Free?” to “Baby-Friendly First Foods,” in addition to disease-specific courses for diabetics, cancer and heart-disease patients, and nursing moms.
The kitchen—and the convergence it represents between healthcare, farm-to-table eating, and politics—highlights the growing importance of prevention as a means of controlling rising healthcare costs. Says Federspiel, “With the opening of the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen, we have the opportunity to teach people of all ages a healthier approach to eating and to help them understand why their diet is so very important to their health.”
To keep the program afloat, Kelly launched the Signature Chef Series, which will auction off dinners made by Kelly’s top-tier chef colleagues—David DiBari, Eric Gabrynowicz, and Anthony Goncalves, among others—to be made and enjoyed in the kitchen itself. For class registration, visit www.hvhc.org/patient-service/harvest-for-health.