This program was designed to develop cooking skills among youth living in a rural food desert.
Use of Theory
Research suggests that obesity prevention programs based on Social Cognitive Theory may be effective to promote healthy weight status in school-age youth. SCT was integrated into a nutrition curriculum using improvised kitchen space to provide opportunities for observational learning and development of behavioral skills and self-efficacy.
This program was designed for high school students living in rural southeastern North Carolina. Teachers at the school were interviewed to identify greatest needs for their students, and a curriculum was planned for the entire 9th grade class.
The curriculum was implemented in 4 sessions. Session 1 targeted food groups and nutrients, with practice opportunities to analyze food labels. Students used laptops in session 2 to find recipes for favorite meals, analyze the nutrition content using an online application, and modify recipes to meet nutrition requirements. In session 3, student teams traveled to a supermarket where each team had $10 to purchase ingredients, and session 4 was devoted to preparing and tasting the modified recipes in an improvised kitchen.
With IRB approval, the teaching team administered an anonymous follow-up survey to participants (n = 40). Each item (Likert scales) addressed a program objective. Each item began with the stem, “After participating in the nutrition sessions, I feel more confident to:” followed by 12 target behaviors, like “analyze nutrition information for any recipe.”
Of 40 participants, 78% reported increased confidence to perform at least 75% of the target behaviors.
Integration of SCT in a cooking curriculum could improve self-efficacy to perform cooking related skills. Higher self-efficacy may increase frequency of a behavior (Glanz, Rimer, and Viswanath, p. 163). Improvised kitchen space provides small teams with chances for observational learning, social support, and stress-free opportunities to develop mastery of skills.