A review of practical cooking skills activities which focus on promoting an affordable healthy balanced diet for adults, young people and their families within low-income communities in Scotland

In 2014 Community Food and Health Scotland/NHS Health Scotland commissioned a realist review of community cooking skills activities run by community initiatives and agencies. The review planned to explore issues such as how the social circumstances of participants and the approach of the cooking skills activities can affect the outcomes.

The researchers analysed 81 sets of reports and evaluation materials or grey literature from community initiatives and agencies, carried out two focus groups with 19 cooking skills course practitioners, and two focus groups with nine cooking course participants.

There were limitations in the quality and robustness of the grey literature. The reviewers overcame this challenge by identifying practitioners’ ‘strategies’: what practitioners do and why they do it, and linked these to behavioural change theories.

The researchers’ conclusions included:

• The cooking activities appeared to be targeting and successfully reaching low-income and vulnerable groups.

• There was evidence of consistent good practice by practitioners.

• Some behaviour change concepts appeared to be used more than others – self-efficacy, salience and social norms were used frequently; and formal goal setting less often.

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