Food and Nutrition

washbarn veggies september 10, 2013-157

Food and Nutrition

Our food mission at the Center for Discovery is simple “First we eat, then we do everything else.”  Food is where therapy begins at the Center.  It is quality care from the inside out.  We are committed to growing quality food, cooking it in a healthful way, and providing the individuals we serve with delicious, highly nutritious food to support health and quality of life.

Food Philosophy
At the Center for Discovery, we believe food is a basic foundation for health and happiness.  We believe that whole, real food sustains body, mind, and spirit.  Our food is geared to support good health, to combat oxidative stress and inflammation, and to provide the very human need for pleasure and community through mealtime. Our menu is plant based with a focus on homemade, healthy comfort foods devoid of artificial flavors, colors, and additives.  We believe food should be as close to its natural form as possible and processed foods should be kept at a minimum.  Foods with artificial ingredients may negatively impact behaviors in the individuals we serve and can actually serve as a major distraction to program delivery.  Through a colorful variety of fresh foods and proper preparation, With all their challenges, our residents have an especially high need for high nutrient density, and we meet this need through a colorful variety of fresh foods that we artfully prepare.

Ingredient Sourcing
In addition to encouraging our residents and staff to eat well, we also attend to how, where and why the food we consume is produced. We aim to always look for ingredients that are safely and sustainably produced, minimally processed and in their most natural state – fresh seasonal produce, whole grains and beans, minimally processed meats and dairy products from properly raised animals.  We take these basic ingredients and prepare them from scratch in our home centered as well as production kitchens. All of our cooks participate in ongoing trainings for food safety, correct consistency preparation, and farm to table education.

Sustainable Food Systems
We strive to participate in a food system that is local, sustainable and durable.  Currently, much of our produce and some of our meats are grown here on Thanksgiving Farm through our organic vegetable and livestock programs. The whole-grain organic loaf served daily at the Center is made at our own wood-fired artisan Bakery. In addition to providing meaningful work for our staff and the people were care for, we are teaching the importance of knowing what quality food is and how to acquire it.

Seed to Belly Program
Our Seed to Belly Program emphasizes and teaches the importance of optimum quality along our entire food chain. At the Center, quality food really begins in the ground with healthy soil through biodynamic and organic practices, then through the planting process utilizing residents to plant seeds, and then harvesting.  The process continues with food preparation in the houses, using recipes and chefs who know that healthy nutrition must come in the form of well-prepared, great tasting food.  The most important part of our chain, however, really comes at the end – the belly.  We can have healthy soil, grow and prepare the most nutritious food, but what matters most is for our residents to eat it.  We help picky eaters transition to eating our healthy food and we work to keep them eager and interested every day.  Thus, the ultimate goal of the entire food program at the Center is one thing – the bite.

The Center for Discovery partners with Dr. Katherine Tucker, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who takes an integrative focus on population health.  Dr. Tucker has served as the principal investigator for a variety of research studies examining nutrition and diet and their relationship to environment, culture, health outcomes, behavior, weight and disease states with diverse age, ethnic and socio-economic groups.  She has trained in maternal and child health, did her PhD in maternal characteristics on child diet and growth, and her work now focuses on the impact of nutrition on metabolism, inflammation and cognition. At The Center for Discovery, Dr. Tucker is designing research to investigate how both metabolic health and behavior may change for children with autism who are placed on aa whole foods diet.