As nutrition and dietetic students, whipping up a stir fry for dinner is oil well and good but for some people cooking at home can seem like a lot of wok, a waste of their thyme and even make them think they doughnut belong in the kitchen … OK, enough of the pun-ishment!
In all seriousness, home cooking and cooking skills have declined in Western cultures and there are a multitude of reasons why.Caraher M, Dixon P, Lang T, Carr‐Hill R. The state of cooking in England: the relationship of cooking skills to food choice. British Food Journal. 1999;101(8):590-609 Nowadays there is increased availability of ready-made meals, more kitchen gadgets (yes, I’m talking to you Thermomix!), and greater time constraints with both work and home life.Engler-Stringer R, Berenbaum S. Collective Kitchens in Canada:A Review of the Literature. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 2005;66(4):246-251
With less time in the kitchen comes fewer skills and a higher likelihood of perceiving meal preparation to be hard, which can be a major barrier to people cooking at home. A study of Irish mothers found that when they were taught how to cook they felt more confident and had a greater intention to do it. Knowing how to cook also leads to increased enjoyment of the process, which could possibly translate to a greater likelihood of continuing.Lavelle F, Hollywood L, Caraher M, McGowan L, Spence M, Surgenor D et al. Increasing intention to cook from basic ingredients: A randomised controlled study. Appetite. 2017;116:502-510
There is also a common perception that healthy food can be expensive. However, research shows that cooking meals at home actually saves money in the long term due to spending less money eating out and on takeaway meals. A US study, for example, found that people who cooked at home spent $273 per person less on food in total and $65 per person less on food eaten away from home each month.Tiwari A, Aggarwal A, Tang W, Drewnowski A. Cooking at Home: A Strategy to Comply With U.S. Dietary Guidelines at No Extra Cost. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2017;52(5):616-624
Possibly most importantly of all, if we can show people how cooking at home can be simple and affordable, this important skill can lead to healthier, happier families through lowering consumption of highly processed foods, which are often energy dense and high in salt, fat and sugar.Wrieden W, Anderson A, Longbottom P, Valentine K, Stead M, Caraher M et al. The impact of a community-based food skills intervention on cooking confidence, food preparation methods and dietary choices – an exploratory trial. Public Health Nutrition. 2007;10(02)
In fact, a UK study found that people who cooked a main meal at home at least five days a week decreased their intake of highly processed foods by 3-4%.Lam M, Adams J. Association between home food preparation skills and behaviour, and consumption of ultra-processed foods: Cross-sectional analysis of the UK National Diet and nutrition survey (2008–2009). International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2017;14(1) And an independent evaluation of the Jamie’s Ministry of Food cooking program found that program participants increased their veggie intake, had more confidence in the kitchen and saved money on takeaway meals.
Which is a great segue to our interview with Renee Truscott – nutritionist and mobile kitchen manager with Jamie’s Ministry of Food in Queensland.
To Renee and her team of Food Trainers at Jamie’s Ministry of Food (JMoF), there are never too many home cooks in their kitchen. The team travels around Queensland delivering cooking education programs that are inspiring people to get into the kitchen and feel comfortable making fresh, healthy, delicious meals from scratch.
Participants undertake a five-week program where they attend a 90-minute class each week that teaches basic home cooking skills and how to prepare healthy, home style recipes. The program has been running in Queensland and Victoria since 2012.
We joined Renee in her mobile kitchen and talked about her career direction, her love for food, and meeting Jamie Oliver (which was obviously icing on the cake!)
What attracted you to studying nutrition?
I’ve always had a keen interest in the mechanics of the human body and a fascination for how intricate and interwoven health is with so many aspects in life, particularly nutrition. Food has always been a massive part of my life, not only from a dietary sense but also in the sense that food brings people together, and it is this multifaceted approach to food and nutrition that I love and love to share with others.
How did you come to work for JMoF?
Queensland was the first state to adopt JMoF [programs] and the first centre in Australia opened in Ipswich in 2011. As soon as I saw the centre opening and heard JMoF was something I could potentially be a part of, I knew I had to be involved. Being able to celebrate food and how it can bring people together was something I knew I would love. I love the whole concept of JMoF and always wanted to be involved in community-based nutrition. I followed (stalked) JMoF for a while until a position came up when the mobile kitchen was built and launched in 2012 and have since been travelling around Queensland.
What does your role involve?
I am the mobile kitchen manager with JMoF. There’s a small team of us which travel to communities around Queensland and teach people to cook for themselves, equipping them with the skills, knowledge and inspiration to do so! We aim to inspire and empower participants to change the way they eat and how they think about food.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Generally on the mobile kitchen we run 3-4 classes a day, so each team member teaches 1-2 classes over the day. The truck is a bit like a transformer and in the morning we open her up and get her ready for the day. We then prep and set up for the classes ready for participants to arrive and the fun to start. Some days we’ll have grocery orders arriving and there’s always an abundance of administrative tasks to get through. Every day is different and there’s always something happening or someone new to meet. There’s never a boring day at work on the MK.
What skills do you need to work for JMoF?
- A passion for cooking and good food.
- The ability to connect with community members and participants that attend [the program classes].
- Confidence with public speaking and able to have fun.
What do you enjoy most about working for JMoF?
Every single day in my job I get to hear someone say how JMoF has changed them for the better. It might have changed their perception on healthy eating, inspired them to cook again, encouraged them to eat a home cooked meal with their families, given them the confidence to cook from scratch at home for their families and friends, or inspired them enough to get their kids into the kitchen and show them some of the tips and tricks they’ve learned. It sounds very corny, but this program really does change lives and I get to be a part of that!
Any advice you wish you were given as a nutrition student?
Something which I’m sure many students hear but perhaps don’t listen to … don’t sweat the small stuff. Food (and cooking!) is meant to be enjoyed and life is all about balance!
How can students get involved with JMoF?
Having a really thorough understanding of food and home cooking is such a pivotal part of helping others with health and nutrition in my opinion, so I think one of the best ways to get involved is to come and participate in the course! The courses are so much fun, a great way to network and meet new people and even participants who consider themselves ‘great cooks’ are surprised at how much knowledge and how many new skills they walk away with.
When we arrive in a location we are always on the lookout for volunteers and can always use a helping hand. So if you’d prefer to get involved behind the scenes, perhaps volunteering is for you!
Finally, we’re all dying to know … have you met Jamie and was it the most exciting day of your life?
Yes! And yes! Jamie came to visit the mobile kitchen in Queensland when we launched back in 2012. We were so excited to meet him and were stoked that in person he was exactly as you’d expect from seeing him on TV. Talk about an amazing day in the office!
You can find out more about Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia on their website.
Photo: Jamie’s Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen Queensland team.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪||Caraher M, Dixon P, Lang T, Carr‐Hill R. The state of cooking in England: the relationship of cooking skills to food choice. British Food Journal. 1999;101(8):590-609|
|2.||⇪||Engler-Stringer R, Berenbaum S. Collective Kitchens in Canada:A Review of the Literature. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 2005;66(4):246-251|
|3.||⇪||Lavelle F, Hollywood L, Caraher M, McGowan L, Spence M, Surgenor D et al. Increasing intention to cook from basic ingredients: A randomised controlled study. Appetite. 2017;116:502-510|
|4.||⇪||Tiwari A, Aggarwal A, Tang W, Drewnowski A. Cooking at Home: A Strategy to Comply With U.S. Dietary Guidelines at No Extra Cost. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2017;52(5):616-624|
|5.||⇪||Wrieden W, Anderson A, Longbottom P, Valentine K, Stead M, Caraher M et al. The impact of a community-based food skills intervention on cooking confidence, food preparation methods and dietary choices – an exploratory trial. Public Health Nutrition. 2007;10(02)|
|6.||⇪||Lam M, Adams J. Association between home food preparation skills and behaviour, and consumption of ultra-processed foods: Cross-sectional analysis of the UK National Diet and nutrition survey (2008–2009). International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2017;14(1)|