Cooking skills program brings about changes in food attitudes and behaviors

JMOFA_Alicia-Peardon_CEO-198x300 12.1Research published today in BMC Public Health by Jamie Oliver’s back–to-basics home cooking skills program (Jamie’s Ministry of Food), shows that participants who completed a 10 week-cooking course, increased their vegetable consumption and cooking confidence, as well as changed their cooking and eating behaviors. In this guest blog, Alicia Peardon, CEO of The Good Foundation and Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia, talks about the merits of the program and how Australians can take steps towards combating diet-related disease.

The Good Foundation is a not-for-profit established in 2010 to focus on programs that promote good health and nutrition, with our first priority being Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia. We partnered with Jamie Oliver and The Good Guys to bring Jamie’s Ministry of Food to Australia with the goal of addressing the lack of food knowledge and cooking skills that exists in the community, by teaching Australians to cook from scratch using fresh and affordable ingredients. We now operate six cooking schools in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.

Basic cooking skills used to be passed down from generation to generation, but now that chain has been broken. The rise of convenience and fast foods, more working mums, and extended work hours leading to time-poor households and a lack of compulsory food education in schools, has resulted in generations of Australians who are ill-equipped to prepare basic nutritious meals.

JMOFA_Ipswich_Participants-Cooking-1-300x200 12.12As a result, it’s no surprise obesity and diet-related disease is on the rise in our country and the statistics are frightening. Now counted as one of the leading causes of premature death in Australia, the increase in diet-related disease, coupled with an aging population, means we are facing significant burden and cost implications on public health now and in the future. We need to take action urgently, to protect ourselves and our future generations.

Jamie’s Ministry of Food addresses the reasons why people no longer cook – we give people the knowledge, skills and confidence to put something on the table that the whole family can enjoy. It’s not about making people feel guilty about what they shouldn’t be eating. It’s about giving people the tools, knowledge and resources, so they can make better informed decisions about what they eat. We simply aim to inspire people, to love and enjoy good food, and we show them how easy it is to prepare a simple, nutritious meal, that uses fresh produce, without great expense.

Jamie’s Ministry of Food is no silver bullet solution to the obesity epidemic. However we are seeing every day in our kitchens, that by empowering people with the skills and confidence to make cook and make good food choices, we can influence behavior change that can lead to better health outcomes. We now have the evidence base to support this.

JMOFA_Ipswich_Particpants-Interior-300x200 12.12Thanks to funding provided by the Queensland Government, The Good Foundation commissioned Deakin University in collaboration with University of Melbourne, to conduct an evaluation of the program with the aim of exploring the impact and participants’ experiences of the program. Results showed that after completing a Jamie’s Ministry of Food course, participants were more confident in cooking meals from scratch, purchased and consumed more vegetables, and spent less on take away foods. This was sustained for six months after completing the course.

A poor diet can lead to many illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.  Australians need to be mindful that what they eat today, can have a negative and lasting impact on their lives, which not only reduces the quality of the life they will live, but also the length. The good news is, diet-related diseases are preventable and if we can inspire more Australians to take better care of themselves and their families, the prospect of living a longer, healthier and happier life, is achievable.

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