Dr. Nimali Fernando breaks the mold on pediatric care—and kids love it!
When was the last time that you took your child to the pediatrician for a wellness visit—and a cooking class? At Yum Pediatrics, in Spotsylvania, Va., you can do just that.
"It's the first of its kind in the country from what I can gather," says pediatrician and founder Dr. Nimali Fernando. "It's a different model. We're writing our own script."
The concept for a whole health focused practice that emphasizes teaching children to understand their own health originated through her blog, doctoryum.com. As Fernando pecked away at her keys, the Dr. Yum Project —cooking and shopping classes and a curriculum—was born.
Fernando built the Dr. Yum brand while still practicing full-time. She shuttled between different venues, including her home and church, developing the idea of creating a place where people can learn about healthy cooking and bring their kids in to try foods.
She eventually struck gold when she found a location that was big enough for her to create a solo practice with a kitchen. "We knocked down the walls, put up a kitchen and realized it was large enough to teach, have my private practice and conduct classes," says Fernando.
On January 13, she introduced Yum Pediatrics with two grand openings. "We had 70 people show up," she says.
For Fernando and her staff, it's been a learning process. Thankfully, the practice has a following of mothers who are interested in growing healthy babies and learning how to prepare and eat more nutritiously.
"We pilot classes with our patients and if it's successful, we offer them to the community," says Fernando.
Yum Pediatrics has partnered with Giant—which has generously allowed Fernando to hold shopping classes—and the Fredericksburg Farmers' Market Coalition.
"I have a great relationship with three of the [coalition] managers. They all serve on the advisory board of the Dr. Yum Project," says Fernando. "I feel strongly about local produce. Our cooking curriculum for ages 7-12 is all seasonal and we learn what's in season in Virginia."
Her aim in creating these alliances within the food community is to educate children about food choices and in understanding where their produce comes from.
"Kids will eat anything good, and if it's grown locally, it will taste better on average than food from afar," she says. "I've seen this with my own kids and we hope people will jump on board with this."
Fernando's idea of combining a pediatric practice with nutrition and food education has no blueprint to follow, but she's enjoying the process. Right now, she's brainstorming a pajama party idea for a Saturday morning workshop where kids can learn to make a healthy breakfast.
"So many kids don't get a healthy breakfast—some don't even get breakfast at all," she exclaims. "But research show that there are cognitive benefits to eating breakfast.
"The whole point is to have fun."
Chris Jones is a contributing writer for Fredericksburg Parent.