Special Chefs launched as a 501(c)(3) over a decade ago. Our bold mission is to support and celebrate the burgeoning cooking skills and health of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). This vital population struggles with three times the rates of obesity and diabetes as the general population. People with IDD represent 1% of the Medicaid recipient base and 11% of its expense.

A number of experts have proven that such lackluster wellness and associated, high medical care cost are unnecessary for a majority of these individuals (over 500,000) who live in over 150,000 group home settings in the United States; simply “eating the wrong foods in the wrong amounts” is the primary culprit. And for clarification, a community-based group home is like most any typical residence and household in any typical neighborhood. The individuals living here are, in essence, a family embracing the day to day as we all do.

Due to a number of circumstances, the staff (direct support personnel or DSP) responsible for supporting people with IDD in community-based residences has historically lacked the necessary skills and knowledge underpinning better nutrition and preventive health. But currently there are programs dedicated to innovative DSP workforce transformation to solve this problem. As one example, Mainstay, Inc. has demonstrated significant outcomes throughout the nation in this regard; its My25 program uniquely registers financial gain for social service providers through food cost savings, reduced PRN medication expense, and labor efficiencies while simultaneously reducing obesity, diabetes, hypertension and medication usage for people with IDD.

Given that DSPs are slowly, but surely, being educated regarding better nutrition and meal preparation in group-home settings, Special Chefs is shifting its emphasis to align with this proactive change. Special Chefs’ founders have launched a series of new initiatives to help fuel these strides that benefit each and every one of us. Whether a provider, private citizen, or local business, your participation is a game changer.