Big changes are coming to the Kitchen Confidence program, and they’re starting with exciting developments at Braille Institute Santa Barbara. With the support of a significant grant from the Elaine F. Stepanek Foundation, on February 18 the center officially dedicated a new 732-square-foot kitchen tailored to the learning of adaptive cooking techniques.

The new teaching space provides an ideal environment in which to launch a thoughtfully expanded, ambitious new curriculum for Kitchen Confidence classes. The goal is to “foster the awareness that good nutrition, incorporated into cooking and food choices, is critical for well-being and can play a role in vision health—all of which support confidence and independence,” explains Lynn Dubinsky, Educational Programs Manager at Braille Institute Santa Barbara. Closely involved in the kitchen’s design, she also worked with consultant Jenifer Gaffaney Swartzentruber, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, in planning twelve weeks of lessons centered on such crucial subjects as balanced eating, immunity-boosting foods, cardiovascular health, memory boosting foods, and, of course, the critical topics of eye health and diabetes management and prevention.

A Thoughtfully Designed Environment

The welcoming new space includes an island around which up to eight students can comfortably gather and watch live cooking demos in a dramatically enlarged form on a high-definition, 80-inch monitor mounted on the wall behind the instructor.“ Around 90 percent of people who come to us are visually impaired, not totally blind,” explains Michael Lazarovits, Executive Director. “They just need things bigger in order to see what the teacher is doing.” Keeping students with limited sight in mind, the space was carefully designed with shadow-free lighting and high contrast between the white counters and the cabinets, floors, and walls.

Another aspect of the new technological setup is equally exciting: It incorporates live streaming capabilities. “So students who can’t get here will be able to observe classes wherever they are,” Lazarovits notes. “And we can even have guest chefs located elsewhere share tips with our students.” The hope is to implement this expanded Kitchen Confidence program in other Braille Institute locations, sharing with a wider audience the real-life benefits of a most generous gift


“Good nutrition is our first line of defense, and one of the things we can do within our reach when it comes to health and wellness. Studies have shown that particular antioxidant-rich foods—like carrots, spinach, kale, chard, and broccoli—help slow or delay age-related macular degeneration.”

Jenifer Gaffaney Swartzentruber,
MS, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator,
Braille Institute