Cooking in the Classroom to Fight Childhood Obesity

Cooking should be integrated into school curricula

Philadelphia, PA, November 8, 2011 – Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other reports that childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years, we recognize the importance of reaching our children early to form good food habits. However, with teachers having to incorporate more and more learning standards into their already packed curriculums, where does that leave room for nutrition education in elementary schools? Perhaps by putting it into school subjects like geography and the study of other cultures, math, and science. A study in the November/December 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows how the Cooking with Kids program successfully helps students learn school subjects and develop cooking skills.

Cooking with Kids is an experiential food and nutrition education program for elementary school students, based on social learning theory and food acceptance principles (cookingwithkids.net). Students explore, prepare, and enjoy fresh, affordable foods from diverse cultural traditions. Founder and executive director Lynn Walters and program director Jane Stacey have developed integrated curriculum materials for grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-6. Cooking with Kids also encourages students to treat each other respectfully and to practice the social skills of working together to prepare a meal and then sitting down to eat together.

As part of a larger evaluation of the program, investigators from the Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition interviewed 178 fourth-graders to determine students’ cooking attitudes and experiences at school and home after a series of cooking plus tasting or just tasting classes alone. Their teachers and Cooking with Kids food educators were also interviewed. Students and their teachers who participated in both types of experiential classes described positive experiences with curriculum integration into academic subjects, and those receiving cooking classes reported opportunities to enhance their social skills. The study also found that students in cooking plus tasting schools did not perceive cooking-related tasks at home as ‘‘chores’’, unlike students who received just tasting classes or those who did not receive either type of class. And, in general, students’ perspectives were that the curriculum strengthened their understanding of the content of school subjects.

Dr. Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD, Assistant Professor at Colorado State University, says, “This study describes student and teacher perceptions about the integration of nutrition education programs with academic curriculum topics, which is essential in justifying nutrition education's continued place in the school curriculum. It documents the importance of including cooking in school curriculum as it is a practical mechanism to promote health, social and educational skills to better prepare students for adulthood.”

The article is “Qualitative Investigation of the Cooking with Kids Program: Focus Group Interviews with Fourth-Grade Students, Teachers, and Food Educators” by Catherine V. Lukas, MS, RD and Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 43, Issue 6 (November/December 2011) published by Elsevier.

In an accompanying podcast, Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD, discusses the results and implications this study. It is available at  www.jneb.org/content/podcast.

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Notes for editors
Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Francesca Costanzo at 215-239-3249orjnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Dr. Leslie Cunningham-Sabo by email at leslie.cunningham-sabo@colostate.edu or by phone at (970) 491-6791. 

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD (under embargo until November 8) and information specifically for journalists are located at  www.jneb.org/content/mediapodcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Francesca Costanzo to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior ( www.jneb.org)
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier

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Media contact
Francesca Costanzo
Elsevier
+ 1 215 239 3249
jnebmedia@elsevier.com