Culinary therapy utilizes cooking as a way for students to communicate and express themselves. While participating in culinary therapy, professionals have found many benefits. These include, but are not limited to, relieving stress, improved social skills, more sensory awareness, better physical health, increased time management and ability to plan and organize, more attention and focus, and increase in self-esteem. Cooking has been shown to be helping physically, cognitively, socially, and personally. While cooking, you need to move, work on balance, use your muscles, and be aware of your surroundings.

While cooking may not seem extraordinary, it has shown to help a wide variety of students. Therapists have seen culinary therapy benefit treatment for those with eating disorders, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, and anxiety. While participating in these sessions, students learn facts about nutrition and how to combat fears with foods. Using the kitchen as a classroom, special needs students are more at ease and able to find structure in recipes and preparing food. The social aspect of culinary therapy boosts confidence and may help those who are depressed. Being able to communicate with others in these sessions eases their fears, stress, and lowers anxiety levels while cooking or baking.

Schools who are interested in starting a culinary therapy program should look into partnerships with community members. Is there a space in your building for cooking, or would it be possible for students to go to another location for this experience? Form a committee that will include a variety of therapists and school professionals to see how this would benefit your student body. Come up with a plan for funding, implementation, and look into the protocol for moving forward in your district. As always, prioritize what is most important for your students. How will they benefit from an after-school program to start with? Once that takes off, it may be easier to show how it helped the students, which could justify expanding the program during the academic day to benefit more of the student body.