Declines in cooking skills in the United States may contribute to poor diet quality and high obesity rates. Little is known about how Americans learn to cook or their support for cooking education policies. The objective of this study was to examine how Americans learn to cook, attributions of responsibility for teaching children how to cook, and public support for policies to teach cooking skills. We used a concurrent, triangulation mixed-methods design that combined qualitative focus group data (from 7 focus groups in Baltimore, MD (N = 53)) with quantitative survey data from a nationally representative, web-based survey (N = 1112). We analyzed focus group data (using grounded theory) and survey data (using multivariable logistic regression). We find that relatively few Americans learn to cook from formal instruction in school or community cooking classes; rather, they primarily learn from their parents and/or by teaching themselves using cookbooks, recipe websites or by watching cooking shows on television. While almost all Americans hold parents and other family members responsible for teaching children how to cook, a broad majority of the public supports requiring cooking skills to be taught in schools either through existing health education (64%) or through dedicated home economics courses (67%). Slightly less than half of all Americans (45%) support increasing funding for cooking instruction for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Broad public support for teaching cooking skills in schools suggests that schools are one promising avenue for policy action. However, school-based strategies should be complemented with alternatives that facilitate self-learning. More research is needed to identify effective means of teaching and disseminating the key cooking skills and knowledge that support healthy eating.
Keywords: Adults; Cooking; Education; Mixed-methods; Policy; Responsibility; United States.
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