In response to the growing rates of childhood obesity, pediatrician Nimali Fernando MD, MPH, fondly known as Dr. Yum, started the Dr. Yum website in 2011 to teach her patients and their families about the benefits of healthy eating. What started out as a recipe site and a few after-school cooking classes grew into a bigger project focused on identifying and helping communities overcome barriers to eating well.
In 2013, The Dr. Yum Project, a 501 (c)3 organization was born. In 2014, our teaching kitchen and garden were opened. This space serves as our hub for in-person teaching and our home base for outreach and virtual nutrition and cooking educational programs. In 2020 as COVID restrictions dictated a shift to virtual offerings, we pivoted and leveraged our most impactful programs, as described below, to better the lives and health outcomes for tens of thousands of families across the country each year.
The Dr. Yum Project is a non-profit organization on a mission to help families and communities overcome barriers to eating well.
These barriers include food insecurity, lack of basic cooking skills, misconceptions that eating healthy food must be expensive and time-intensive, unfamiliarity with fresh and whole foods, typical “picky eating”, and a lack of informational resources on how to raise children who enjoy nutritious foods. Physicians may also face barriers to sharing nutrition information with parents, including limited time, confidence, and a lack of practical nutrition education in their training.
What Makes Us Unique
Founded and led by a pediatrician, the Dr. Yum Project’s programs are designed by and maintained by experts in nutrition and cooking education, including physicians, early childhood educators, speech-language pathologists, feeding therapists, and registered dietitians.
We scale our programs by training early education teachers and directors, providing resources for physicians in general and specialty fields, and partnering with other nonprofits and community groups to leverage each organization’s strengths to increase our reach and impact exponentially.
Our Core Programs
We accomplish our mission with:
Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure, an evidence-based interactive curriculum designed to introduce preschoolers to the joy of eating fruits and vegetables. This curriculum was written by a team of experts, including a registered dietitian, early childhood educators, pediatrician Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH, (“Dr. Yum”), and a certified speech-language pathologist specializing in pediatric feeding Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP (“Coach Mel”). Dr. Yum and Coach Mel are also co-authors of the award-winning book, Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook.
This 7th edition of our proven interactive curriculum features 24 lessons (which can be used over two years) presented by preschool teachers once a month. It is a flexible, multi-sensory, interactive nutrition and cooking curriculum with strong family involvement and research to prove it works. Unparalleled teacher training provides instructors with a novel and effective approach to talking about trying new foods. It includes powerful language used by Coach Mel, a world-renowned feeding therapist, in her treatment of extremely picky eaters. Many extension activities, which meet NAEYC standards, can be used to deepen the experience and familiarity with the new food through art, literacy, movement, music, science, and community connections. The free Dr. Yum website provides unlimited support for teachers and parents alike, 24/7.
This curriculum now serves more than 15,000 students in 35 states, Australia, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Watch this video to learn more.
Dr. Yum’s Food Adventure: Home Edition an online one-year subscription program based on Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure, introduces families to fruits and vegetables through monthly lessons with a sensory-based approach with cooking and other extension activities.
- Dr. Yum's Touchpoint Program, is a program of practical health behavior modules intended for use by primary care providers in the management of children with overweight or obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics 2023 “Clinical Practice Guideline for the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Obesity” states that Intensive Health Behavior and Lifestyle Treatment (IHBLT) should be offered to anyone 6 years old and older (and in 2 to 5-year-old patients at the discretion of the physician). The program can also be used with any children with health behaviors like poor nutrition or with a family history that puts them at risk for metabolic dysfunction.
Additionally, we educate and assist medical professionals in their efforts to help patients and their families understand the developmental aspects of feeding and trying new foods. As a part of these efforts, we have created a series of free anticipatory guidance handouts in collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America.
The Dr. Yum Project team engages with physicians and other healthcare providers locally and nationally at annual meetings like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo annual meeting. We serve as a resource for nutrition and food education for professionals to use in counseling their clients and patients. Watch this video to learn more.
- Our website, DoctorYum.org continues to be the ecosystem of supporting materials for preschool teachers and families, physicians and their patients and families, and the general public who can use our resources free of charge to help overcome the barriers to eating well. Highlights include our recipe catalog of over 220 recipes, many in both English and Spanish, Dr. Yum's Meal-o-Matic which allows users to make a custom recipe with what is available in the fridge or pantry, blogs and articles written by a variety of experts in nutrition, education, and medicine, printable downloads for families, physicians, and food distribution sites in English and Spanish and more.
The Dr. Yum Project earned the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world's largest database of nonprofit organizations. Less than five percent of non-profits registered with GuideStar are recognized with a Gold Seal. A Gold Seal status is the leading symbol of non-profit transparency and accountability.
Early Childhood Education Centers: we work with a wide variety of early childhood centers regionally and internationally to implement our research-based curriculum, Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure.
National Head Start Association has allowed us to expand to hundreds of Head Start Classrooms nationwide.
Healthcare Providers: We partner with healthcare providers both locally and nationally to serve as a resource for sharing nutrition and cooking information with patients.
Partnership for a Healthier America: We collaborate with this national organization, providing our expertise to help provide information on nutrition to parents and medical providers nationwide.
Regional and national nonprofit organizations to provide cooking instruction resources to families and at-risk communities. Partners include food pantries, farmers' markets, colleges and universities, health support groups, and social services agencies.
Our small but mighty team includes a volunteer board and an enthusiastic staff. We are all powered by our dedication to this important mission. Learn more about our team.
What Others are Saying
We are helping all types of families and communities overcome barriers to eating well. We are proud of our record of success but don’t take our word for it. See what others are saying.