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P85 iCooks: A Virtual Cooking School and Nutrition Education Program Delivered to SNAP-Ed Youth Participants in Arkansas

      Objective

      To implement a virtual cooking school to promote healthy eating and teach youth basic cooking and food safety skills.

      Use of Theory or Research

      Studies show cooking-related programs combined with nutrition education have the potential to improve children's diet quality and are associated with more positive food choices.

      Target Audience

      Students in SNAP-Ed eligible schools.

      Program Description

      The University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, SNAP-Ed Program conducted a virtual cooking school to reach SNAP-Ed youth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The iCooks cooking school was offered to students in the Lonoke School Systems, and 11 families with a combined total of 24 youth in grades 3-12 participated in the program. The iCooks cooking school consisted of 5 lessons delivered weekly. Each lesson included a demonstration video of the recipe, instruction, healthy eating and food safety information. Ingredients to prepare the recipes at home were provided to participants. The lessons also included a physical activity component and an eating together as a family activity. A private Facebook group was created for participants to post pictures of themselves cooking, comment on recipes, and share what they learned.

      Evaluation Methods

      A pre/post survey for students was used to evaluate knowledge gained and changes in eating habits. Parents were surveyed to assess the effectiveness of the program.

      Results

      One hundred percent of participants increased knowledge about how to prepare healthy foods; 100% indicated they could now make food safely to avoid foodborne illness; 84% were willing to try food in new and interesting ways; 89% were willing to taste new foods they had not tried before; 89% indicated they paid more attention to how many fruits and vegetables they ate daily; and 100% indicated they learned the importance of healthy eating habits.

      Conclusion

      iCooks, a virtual cooking school and nutrition education program, has been successful in increasing students’ knowledge of healthy meal preparation, improving food safety skills, and increasing awareness of their daily fruit and vegetable intake.
      Funding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education, The Healthy Living Grant funded by the Wal-Mart Foundation.

      Appendix. Supplementary data