Last year, Dr Ada Garcia and her colleagues published a narrative review on community cooking courses and their impact on people’s confidence to cook and their eating behaviour. The review wasn’t systematic, so it looks at a relatively small number of studies. However, if you are looking for academic evidence on the impact of community cooking courses it does provide some positive conclusions. The review suggests that community cooking courses:
- are modestly effective at increasing confidence to cook and prepare meals and can help develop food literacy*
- may increase people’s intake of fruit and vegetables – but the evidence for this is less consistent
- can be particularly beneficial to adults (and their families) who are vulnerable or living on a low-income
- can be effective for a range of age groups – the review highlights studies involving children, young people, adults and older adults; and
- a couple of the studies also notes that course participants enjoyment of cooking increased: one of these included people that had taken part in cooking courses as adolescents- as adults, they were more likely to report they enjoyed cooking
The review also discusses the challenges of measuring confidence around cooking – course participants’ reported confidence may not reflect their actual skill level. The review suggests using other methods to measure this, such as evaluating people’s skills and not solely relying on their reported confidence.
Evaluating skills can be done through observation and this is something that many members of our cooking skills study group have done – writing up observation notes on how participants have developed their skills throughout a course. This can back up or provide more context to participants self –reporting such as by using questionnaires. (For practitioners that run the REHIS Elementary Cooking skills course – assessment of skills through observation will be part of their usual work)
In the next blog – my colleague Jacqui McDowell will explore further ideas on how to measure confidence in relation to cooking courses.
* Garcia and her colleagues define ‘food literacy’ to cover the wide range of skills required to plan, budget for, prepare, eat and safely store and dispose of food, as well as technical cooking skills.
Contact Ada.Garcia@glasgow.ac.uk if you would like a copy of the review