There’s something about a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior that got me thinking. Thinking big. Their research suggests that cooking skills developed as a young adult are likely to have long-term benefits for their future health, nutrition and wellbeing. But what if it isn’t just their own health that learning how to cook could influence? What if it could change the world as we know it?
The solution to the world’s problems?
OK, so I know there is a lot more to fixing the current state of the world than our ability to cook but go with me here. The research states that perceived adequacy of cooking skills in young adults led to predict multiple indicators of nutrition outcomes later in adulthood. This included greater odds of preparing a meal with vegetables most days and less frequent consumption of fast food. They even go on to suggest that if those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate had families, they ate more frequent family meals, less frequent fast food meals, and had fewer barriers to food preparation.
This research was conducted using a large, population-based sample size followed over a period of 10 years, so the results of the study are strong. Yet they may come across as common sense too. But what if there is even more to it then just health and wellbeing of the individual? If they chose to eat more vegetables, have more family meals and make healthier choices, may they also be driven to make better, more sustainable and ethical food choices too?
If young people were more aware of their food choices, how to cook and even the understanding of where different foods come from through simple cooking education, we could see a significant rise in the consumption of organics, locally-bought or even homegrown fruit and veg. Not to mention being more likely to place further pressure on producers and manufacturers to grow sustainable and ethical produce that is honest and accountable. This would strengthen the local food market as well as considerably reduce the burden on the NHS from the diet-related treatments and therapies. It may also reduce food waste which is another hefty issue facing the world today.
Home cooking in drastic decline
2018 has already been declared the year of sustainability, with much being done to improve our food systems and packaging addictions for the better. However, with the practice of home cooking in drastic decline and now rarely taught in schools, we risk a dive in awareness and understanding in future generations. Not only will they be unable to make the best decisions for their own health, these could have a negative impact on the subsequent food market. Let alone risk the big drive we see at the moment to move away from toxins, depleting resources, agricultural degradation and mass extinctions resulting from agricultural land take and pollution.
Sustain.org have a Children’s Food Campaign that highlights the current problem. Examples include a 2005 survey by the British Heart Foundation that found 37% of children aged 8-14 did not know that cheese was made from milk. They also found that 36% could not identify the main ingredient in chips, with answers including oil, egg and apples. A cause for concern I hope you would agree?
Should we fight to see ‘Home Economics’ as it was called in my day, or ‘Food Technology’ brought back into our schools as a mandatory core subject? Is it the responsibility of the school to educate about such a subject, or should more onus, pressure and support be given to parents to do it? At least in schools, we reduce the risk of those disadvantaged to miss out on the precious, most basic education they need to survive in life – how to eat well despite how little money we may have.
Food is a fundamental human need and one I genuinely feel could change the future of our planet with relatively low investment in schools and the education system. Are you with me?
If you have any views it would be great to hear them – just drop your comments below and let’s get a conversation started. You can also read up on the research I mentioned above here on the ScienceDaily website.