How the Doctor Yum Project Came To Be

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In response to the growing rates of childhood obesity, pediatrician Nimali Fernando MD, MPH started the website in 2011 to teach her patients and her families about the benefits of healthy eating. What started out as a recipe and parenting site grew to a bigger project of teaching a healthy lifestyle to the greater community. In 2012 The Doctor Yum Project, a 501 (c)3 organization was born.


  • In 2011, after becoming more and more frustrated with the myriad of diet related illnesses presented in the majority of her patients, Dr. Fernando realized the limited time allotted for each patient interaction was not enough to introduce the idea of the connection between good food and good health in a meaningful way.  She found herself quickly repeating advice and suggesting recipes, making incremental inroads with a few interested patients, and thought there must be a better way.  As a result, the blog, was created with kid-tested recipes, featuring many of her own or family recipes.   Her first post, “ A Pediatrician’s Pledge” appears gives great insight to her motivation in creating the blog.  Within a matter of months, hundreds of business cards promoting the free resource were distributed to her patients, many of whom regularly visited the site, took her advice to heart and incorporated her family favorite recipes into their own dinner rotations.
  • In 2012, parents were asking Dr. Fernando for cooking instruction for their elementary school-aged children and the first Doctor Yum cooking camps were created.  Held in the afternoons after she was done seeing patients, Dr. Fernando would load her personal cooking tools in the back of her station wagon and set up shop in a Downtown Fredericksburg church basement kitchen, showing kids how local seasonal Virginia produce can be delicious and easy to prepare.  
  • In 2012 Dr. Fernando gathered a few passionate friends, some physicians and others with diverse backgrounds to create the Doctor Yum Project. In 2013 it became an official 501c3 nonprofit.
  • 2013 Dr. Fernando teamed up with Colorado feeding specialist Melanie Potock to write “Doctor Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure.” This interactive curriculum aimed at 3-5 year olds was piloted in eight Central Virginia preschools and daycares and features a monthly lessons, a full sensory experience around healthy food, parent education and teacher training.
  • In 2014 Dr. Fernando left her group practice of 9 years to open Yum Pediatrics, a solo practice where she could dedicate more time to each patient and focus on prevention of illness through nutrition. She designed the space with a 600 square foot teaching kitchen and instructional garden to be used in teaching patients and to conduct the Doctor Yum Project’s classes, including new classes for preschoolers, infant feeding, family nutrition seminars, and adult cooking classes.
  • In 2015 The Doctor Yum Project shifts its focus from pediatric obesity to a greater community wide effort to educate families and create more awareness about the connection between good food and good health. In order for a child to eat healthy they need a family who understands the importance of eating healthy and knows how to prepare healthy food. That family also needs to be surrounded by other families who prioritize healthy eating. Those families also need community infrastructure so that they have access to fresh healthy affordable food. They need schools, businesses, after school activities and a medical community to support a healthy lifestyle. They decided that to help one child to eat a better diet  these layers of change and awareness must take place in their Fredericksburg community, creating a culture of wellness.
  • In 2015 Dr. Fernando and Melanie Potock published their award-winning book, “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater” to help families learn how to raise adventurous, healthy eaters everywhere.
  • In 2016 The Doctor Yum Project received a grant from their community hospital to upgrade their website with new recipes, photography and tools like Doctor Yum’s Meal Maker Machine and Meal Planner.
  • In 2016 The Doctor Yum Project recruited eight other medical practices (Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Gastroenterology, OB/GYN, Allergy, Ophthalmology, Radiology, and Oncology)  in their community to sponsor the expansion of their website. Many of these physicians use the site as a source for their adult patients.
  • In 2016 The Doctor Yum Project teamed up with the local health department and farmers markets with the help of a CDC grant to develop the “Produce Pack Program.” This program gives farmers market produce in refrigerated bags with recipes to women and children on the WIC program. Those bags can be redeemed for fresh food at the market all summer long. A continuation grant also allowed Doctor Yum Project staff to share recipes and do hands on food demonstrations and tastings each week at the health department.
  • In 2017 the Doctor Yum Preschool Food Adventure will start its 5th school year in 22 schools in three states with over 600 preschoolers including all of the students enrolled in Head Start in the City of Fredericksburg.
  • In 2017 NBC Nightly News features the Doctor Yum Project!

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