Abstract| Volume 45, ISSUE 4, SUPPLEMENT , S18, July 2013

Let's Cook Minnesota!: An Evaluation of Cooking-based Curricula


      Let’s Cook Minnesota! compared the feasibility and effectiveness of cooking-based nutrition education programs to a traditional nutrition education delivery model in rural communities. “Simply Good Cooking (SGC)” and “Cooking Matters™(CM)” were the cooking-based curricula featured in this study.

      Target audience

      Participants were SNAP-eligible adults with children in rural settings.

      Theory, Prior Research, Rationale

      Focus group interviews conducted by the University of Minnesota Extension’s Simply Good Eating (SGE) program indicate that participants prefer nutrition education programs that are hands-on and include cooking. Limited research exists in comparing the effectiveness of cooking-based programs to traditional nutrition education.


      Participants were enrolled either in programs featuring cooking-based (SGC or CM) or knowledge-based curricula (comparison). To evaluate programs, group interviews were conducted with Community Nutrition Educators, volunteers and partner agencies. Participants were given pre-, post- and follow-up questionnaires that evaluated confidence, skills and behavior change.


      Group interviews of staff revealed that cooking-based programs resulted in better attendance and greater enthusiasm from participants and facilitators. A community engagement strategy strengthened collaborative agency involvement. Post course evaluation results of all 3 curricula indicated increased skills and confidence in participant’s ability to purchase healthy foods, plan and prepare healthy meals. Behavior change outcomes varied between curricula, but were typically consistent with the focus the curriculum placed on specific outcomes.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Cooking-based curricula were an effective method of conducting nutrition education. Notably cooking-based curricula offered additional behavior outcomes not observed in knowledge-based curricula. Because much enthusiasm for cooking-based curricula was reported by staff, agency partners and participants; this approach is being expanded in Minnesota SGE programs.