‘Teach a kid to cook, and they’ll eat well for a lifetime’

‘Teach a kid to cook, and they’ll eat well for a lifetime’

The children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way! This sentiment perfectly sums up the efforts being made to ensure Kiwi kids gain the knowledge and skills to make wise food choices so they’re ready, set, and go on to lead long, healthy and happy lives – life skills that they can then pass onto the next generation.

To this end, a number of social enterprises have jumped on board to turn the tide on Kiwi health statistics. These organisations are working hard to implement healthy living programmes that reach kids at a young age, to improve New Zealand’s health now, and in the future.

A big part of this is teaching children to cook and understand nutrition, which has health benefits both now and in the long term. In fact, a recent study shows exactly that — a positive link between cooking skills gained early in life and good nutrition later on.

This blog explores the findings of this study, and follows the work of one organisation having a positive impact on hundreds of Kiwi kids’ lives, by making it reality.


The research

The findings of a decade-long US study about the impact of early cooking skills have just been released. Published in the Journal of Nutrition, Education and Behaviour, the ‘Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults’ study looked at how learning these skills at a young age impacted participants over time. The results speak for themselves.

The participants’ beliefs about their own cooking skills predicted several nutritional outcomes as they got older including an improved chance of preparing a meal with vegetables most days, eating together more often as a family and eating less fast food.

"Opportunities to develop cooking skills by adolescents may result in long-term benefits for nutritional well-being,” said study author, Associate Professor Jennifer Utter, who is now based at the University of Auckland's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Ultimately, investing in cooking education for young people continues to have benefits as they get older.

"Families, health and nutrition professionals, educators, community agencies, and funders can continue to invest in home economics and cooking education knowing that the benefits may not be fully realised until young adults develop more autonomy and live independently,” she said.


sKids cooking programme - Foodstorm

Out-of-school care provider, sKids sees these benefits first-hand through their specialty cooking programme, Foodstorm. The programme is taught by staff who are passionate about making an ongoing positive difference to children’s lives. With the support of the New Zealand Heart Foundation, sKids teaches children aged five to 13 how to cook as well as the fundamentals of nutrition.

“We want to get every child in New Zealand cooking — learning how to cook, developing a good relationship with food and understanding what’s in their food”, says sKids spokeswoman, Rebecca Woolfall.

“It’s about hands-on learning, getting kids engaged and starting to make healthy decisions for themselves.”

The Foodstorm programme has provided 13 recipes to be taught at sKids franchises throughout New Zealand. Kids gain a solid foundation of basic skills by learning how to cook spaghetti bolognese, scrambled eggs, soup, and healthier baking.

“This is all about getting our kids excited about food while giving them the confidence and tools to make a lifetime of healthy choices,” says Rebecca.

The Heart Foundation has been providing nutritional support to sKids around recipe development, assessment and modification, to ensure all recipes offered as part of Foodstorm meet the Fuelled4life Food and Beverage Classification System and Fresh Made criteria.


Learn more about sKids and Foodstorm.