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MARCH 20, 2018 – Before opioid addiction unraveled Mike Wallace’s life, food was his livelihood. Wallace, now in recovery, worked for years as a dishwasher and line cook. And on a recent sunny Boston morning, he again found himself in the kitchen. Wallace was one of about a dozen people at a cooking class at Boston Medical Center tailored for people recovering from addiction. Tracey Burg, a dietician and chef who runs the medical center’s demonstration kitchen, which offers classes on how to cook for medical conditions from diabetes to heart disease, led participants through choosing and cooking healthful foods. Burg extolled the virtues of whole grains while preparing a one-pan chicken, vegetable, and pasta dish along with a fruit parfait.

The class is among the first of its kind in the nation and is part of a growing recognition that addiction is a complex chronic health condition that deserves care and attention on many fronts. Nutrition class is no replacement for the life-saving medicines that can be used to treat addiction or reverse an overdose. But even when someone with addiction is stabilized on treatment, many remain far from healthy. By addressing the vital role nutrition plays in recovery, the class fills a key but overlooked space, experts say.

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