In 1901, Lenna graduated in nursing from the Battle Creek Sanitarium (a Seventh-day Adventist health institution) in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was there that she became a protégé of the famed vegetarian physician, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, superintendent, and medical director of the sanitarium. During the early part of the twentieth century, the Battle Creek Sanitarium became world-famous as a leading medical center, spa-like wellness institute, and grand hotel that attracted thousands of patients actively pursuing health and well-being. The sanitarium served only vegetarian meals to its patients and visitors. People of all social classes from around the world flocked to the Sanitarium to personally experience its unique vegetarian diet and wellness program, which Dr. Kellogg called “biologic living”. The Sanitarium’s notable guests included Mary Todd Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington, Johnny Weissmuller, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller Jr., George Bernard Shaw, and J.C. Penney. Dr. Kellogg and his team of dietitians even worked with presidents such as William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Under the tutelage and inspiration of Dr. Kellogg and his wife, Ella Eaton Kellogg, Lenna first developed her love for the study of foods and their scientific preparation. Dr. Kellogg encouraged Lenna to go to the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia to study foods and food chemistry where she excelled in her studies. She later received her bachelor’s (1916) and master’s (1927) degrees from Columbia University.
Dr. Kellogg appointed Lenna as the Chief Dietitian of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and the Director and Dean of the Battle Creek Sanitarium School of Home Economics. The School of Home Economics began in 1906, offering a one- year course for matrons and housekeepers. In 1907, a two- year course to instruct teachers and lecturers was offered. All courses included training in the Sanitarium’s philosophy of health through “biologic living.” The growing demand for trained dietitians for hospitals led to the school’s development of a two-year comprehensive course in dietetics to be included in its curriculum. Vegetarian nutrition and cooking was the foundation of the dietetics courses taught at the school under Lenna’s supervision. More than 500 dietitians graduated from Battle Creek under her tenure. Lenna became a leading proponent for health care through diet and a pioneer in the field of vegetarian nutrition and dietetics.
Lenna’s first book, The New Cookery (Good Health Publishing, 1913), featured nutritionally balanced, attractive, and palatable vegetarian recipes, most of which were served at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Many of these unique recipes incorporated innovative nut, wheat gluten, and legume- based meat substitutes, whole grain cereals, and other vegetarian food products that were originally created at The New Cookery (Good Health Publishing, 1913) the Sanitarium. Working closely with Dr. Kellogg, Lenna developed the vegetarian cuisine medical nutrition therapy menus that were served to the Sanitarium’s patients.Because of her multifaceted talents and accomplishments in dietetics at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Lenna’s reputation gradually became recognized on a national level as a leader in her field. Those early days of training and experience working at Battle Creek gave her a strong foundation in nutritional science that paved the way to an illustrious career.