Academy Co-Founder Lenna Frances Cooper: A Pioneer in Vegetarian Nutrition and Dietetics

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), it is a good time to reflect on our Academy’s rich history.


It is a time to honor and recognize the visionary women who started our professional organization. One such woman was the Academy’s co-founder Lenna Frances Cooper. In describing her character and dedication to the dietetic profession, the July 1965 Journal of The American Dietetic Association states, “This woman who accomplished so much in the field of applied nutrition and dietetics was slight of stature, quiet in voice, and gentle in manner, but she had the true spirit and courage of the pioneers. She had vision, steadfastness of purpose, high integrity, and a thirst for knowledge which she shared freely with her students and staff. Her warm personality and deep understanding of others made her an ideal teacher and dietitian and won friends wherever she went.” (1).

Lenna achieved much in her nutrition and dietetics career. To give structure and professionalism to the field of dietetics, she was the first to propose the formation of the American Dietetic Association (now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), which she co-founded in 1917. She became the Academy’s first vice president and later served as the fourteenth president in 1937. During World War I, she was the first Supervising Dietitian for the U.S. Army (1918- 1919). Lenna saw the need to economize food during the war and in 1917 wrote the book, How to Cut Food Costs. In 1929, as a charter member, she became the first president of the Michigan Dietetic Association. Lenna served on the staff of the U.S. Surgeon General and created the Department of Dietetics at the National Institutes of Health. Her greatest renown came as senior author of Nutrition in Health and Disease, used as a textbook for 30 years in dietetic and nursing programs throughout the world.

Each year at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (FNCE®), the Academy recognizes and honors Lenna’s legacy of leadership in nutrition and dietetics through the presentation of the Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture Award. This highly esteemed award is presented to a dedicated Academy member, notable and inspiring speaker, and a role model who has made significant contributions to the profession of nutrition and dietetics. Yet, few Academy members are aware of Lenna’s personal career background and history as a pioneer in the field of vegetarian nutrition and dietetics. Her study and career in food and nutrition began with a focus and specialization in vegetarian nutrition.

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.

The-New-Cookery-Book-Cover.jpgLenna’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.


Battle Creek Sanitarium Menu

The Battle Creek Sanitarium served exclusively a vegetarian menu to its patients and visitors. Below are examples of the type of vegetarian food choices offered on the menu.


  • Fresh Fruit – Apples, Strawberries, Oranges
  • Grains – Gran Nuts (similar to Grape Nuts), Brown Rice with Black Raspberry Sauce, Granose Biscuit (a whole grain biscuit) with Hot Cream
  • Vegetables – Baked Potatoes with Brown Sauce, Green Peas
  • Toasts – Prune Toast, Nuttolene Toast (toast with a nut spread), Toasted Whole Wheat Wafers
  • Fermented Breads – Fine Graham Bread, Coarse Graham Bread, White Bread, Fruit Bread, Zweiback
  • Liquid Foods – Boiled Milk, Caramel-Cereal – (a cereal grain-based coffee substitute), Oatmeal Gruel


  • Soups – Split Pea, Clear Tomato, Cream of Corn, Tomato with Vermicelli
  • Entrees – Braised Protose (a meat substitute made from wheat gluten and peanuts), Nuttolene Fricassee (a meat substitute made from nuts), Savory Spaghetti, Walnut Roast
  • Vegetables – Baked Potatoes with Brown Sauce, Potatoes in Jackets, Swiss Chard, Fresh Peas, Beet Salad
  • Relishes – Sliced Tomatoes, Celery, French Salad
  • Breads – Whole Wheat, Graham, Granose Biscuit (a whole-grain biscuit), Breakfast Toast, Bran Buns
  • Cooked Fruit – Cherries, Pears, Blueberries, Sweet Prunes
  • Beverages – Apple Juice, Grape Juice, Noko (a cereal grain-based coffee substitute), Pasteurized Milk, Yogurt Buttermilk, Hot Malted Nuts, Malted Nuts, Cream, Kaffir Tea (caffeine-free herbal tea)
  • Desserts – Watermelon, Bananas, Farina Fruit Mold with Coconut Sauce

Note: No coffee or caffeinated beverages were served at the sanitarium.

As the Academy begins its second century, we thank Lenna Frances Cooper for her vision and leadership as a co-founder of our professional organization. We also acknowledge her pioneering work in the field of vegetarian nutrition and dietetics. Today, scientific research continues to confirm that plant-based and vegetarian diets are an optimal nutritional approach to the prevention, treatment, and even the potential reversal of many of the chronic diseases facing the world today. Vegetarian nutrition plays a critical role in achieving the Academy’s new mission to “accelerate improvements in global health and well-being through food and nutrition.” Lenna was way ahead of her time.


  1. Barber MI. Lenna Frances Cooper – February 25, 1875 – February 23, 1961. J Am Diet Assoc. 1961;38:458.
  2. Cooper LF. The New Cookery. Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Co.; 1913.
  3. Editorial. 1951 Marjorie Hulsizer Copher award goes to Lenna Frances Copper. J Am Diet Assoc. 1951; 27:1071-1072.
  4. Food & Nutrition Magazine. September/October 2017. 55th Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture Award Recipient, p. 39.
  5. Kellogg JH. The New Dietetics (2nd ed.) – A Guide to Scientific Feeding in Health and Disease. Battle Creek, MI: The Modern Medicine Publishing Co.; 1923.
  6. Lowe BB. Tales of Battle Creek. Battle Creek, MI: The Albert L. and Louise B. Miller Foundation, Inc.; 1976.
  7. Markel H. The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek. New York, NY: Pantheon Books; 2017.
  8. Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame – Lenna Frances Cooper.,%20Lenna%20Frances.pdf
  9. Schwartz R. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D. – Pioneering Health Reformer. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association; 2006.
  10. Todhunter EN. Biographical notes from the history of nutrition: Lenna Frances Cooper – February 25, 1875 – February 23, 1961. J Am Diet Assoc. 1965; 47:28.