Cooking up a Volunteer Career in the Kidney Kitchen

Everyone with chronic kidney disease should be so lucky as to be on a “Duane-friendly
diet.” No, it’s not the latest fad diet, like Atkins or the Zone. It’s what Duane Sunwold’s students at Spokane Community College’s Culinary Academy call the healthy food their instructor has eaten since he was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome. The doctor suggested that Sunwold jettison “the typical American diet, heavy on meat,” and his dietitan agreed. In two weeks, Sunwold felt remarkably better, and the best part is that he has been able to control his disease with medication, rather than dialysis. His own condition has also sparked a parallel volunteer career – as chief cook in NKF’s Kidney Kitchen, who concocts new kidney-friendly recipes on a monthly basis for the Love Your Kidneys newsletter.

“Fate put me here for a reason,” says Sunwold, who is an active participant in NKF’s Patient Advocacy activities “Now it’s my turn to use my experience to educate and help others.” His first public meal plan was a smash: for  a  NKF meeting of health care professionals, Sunwold created a menu for doctors, dietitians and other attendees (prepared by the hotel’s executive chef) of  kidney-friendly recipes – sweet potato black bean burrito, a stuffed manicotti with tofu, couscous and pine nut baked casserole, and last but not least, strawberries with fresh tofu for dessert. “There was the regular buffet lunch, which I was told would be the main food, and my food would be used for tasting,” he says, chuckling at the memory. “Let’s just say people were licking their plates clean of the kidney-friendly offerings. I’m certainly learning the power of great tasting Duane-friendly food!”

And so are Love Your Kidneys readers who have been enjoying Sunwold’s fare for the last five years. In addition to the recipes that have made their way into the newsletter and online Kidney Kitchen, Sunwold even created a cooking show-style video for the NKF’s YouTube channel starring himself whipping up his healthy salt-free pizza.Whether with his future line cooks and chefs, or at home, with his nurse wife and two kids, Sunwold practices what he preaches.”I have to be an example,” he says, simply. “And I didn’t even used to like tofu!”

Reflecting on his volunteering role with NKF, Sunwold says, “When I was diagnosed with CKD, I felt like the only person in the world with kidney disease. I don't want anyone to feel that way, while they’re learning to manage their situation. Volunteering is way to give back to all of the people who helped me and to let them see the positive effect kidney disease has had on my life."
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