An Experiential Cooking and Nutrition Education Program Increases Cooking Self-Efficacy and Vegetable Consumption in Children in Grades 3-8

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2016 Nov-Dec;48(10):697-705.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2016.07.021. Epub 2016 Aug 26.


Objective: Evaluate the effect of a community-based, experiential cooking and nutrition education program on consumption of fruits and vegetables and associated intermediate outcomes in students from low-income families.

Design: Quasi-experimental program evaluation by pre-post survey of participating students and their parents.

Setting: Underserved elementary and middle schools in Chicago.

Participants: Students (n = 271; 65% girls, 44% Hispanic, 32% African American; 94% eligible for free/reduced price lunch) in grades 3-8 selected by school staff to participate by variable inclusion criteria. 59% of students who applied returned both pre- and post-surveys.

Intervention(s): Ten-week (2 h/wk) chef-instructor-led program held in cafeteria kitchens after school.

Main outcome measure(s): Changes in student nutrition knowledge, cooking self-efficacy, fruit and vegetable liking and consumption, and communication to family about healthy eating.

Analysis: Changes from beginning to end of program were analyzed with paired t test. Results were considered significant at P < .05.

Results: Increased nutrition knowledge score from 0.6 to 0.8, cooking self-efficacy score from 3.2 to 3.6, and vegetable consumption score from 2.2 to 2.4 (all P < .05). Increased score for communication about healthy eating (4.1 to 4.4; P < .05) 6 months after the end of the course.

Conclusions and implications: Experiential cooking and nutrition education programs led by chef-instructors may be effective ways to improve nutrition in low-income communities.

Keywords: cooking; elementary school; food preference; middle school; vegetable liking; vegetable preference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chicago
  • Child
  • Cooking*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Vegetables*