New research shows many Kiwi kids are not taught how to cook a meal

New Massey University research, commissioned by the Heart Foundation and vegetables.co.nz, shows that only 13% of surveyed teachers identified planning and preparing a complete meal as a key learning objective for their students.

Kids not taught to cook main meals

Nearly 120 schools throughout New Zealand took part in the research, which examined how intermediate school children in Years 7 and 8 were taught cooking skills under the current school curriculum.

Heart Foundation Food and Nutrition Manager Dave Monro says while many schools are doing a good job of teaching cooking he is concerned about the inconsistencies in what is taught, how it is taught and how much time is devoted to it.

“Many of the foods and techniques taught in class were based around cakes, muffins and desserts with less than 50% of the foods prepared being main meal items,” says Monro.

“Additionally, only 10% of teachers surveyed listed the fruit and vegetable content of a recipe as a factor that influenced their recipe choice.

“With one in three Kiwi kids now overweight or obese it’s more important than ever to equip them with skills that will help set them up for a healthier future.”

Overall, the findings indicate that there are opportunities to better support children with important skills in food preparation.

Learn from others 

“A number of schools surveyed have comprehensive programmes which we can learn from and use as the basis for enhancing teaching in other schools,” says Monro.

He says cooking meals and gathering together as a family, and as a community is a skill that is proven in many cultures to be an essential ingredient for a healthy lifestyle.

“Traditionally, schools and parents were the main teachers of cooking skills, however, changes in traditional family structures have resulted in fewer opportunities for our children to develop these important life skills.

“The school curriculum is the most appropriate way to support the development of cooking skills as it reaches all children and provides many learning opportunities across a number of subject areas,” he says.

Next steps

As a result of the findings, the Heart Foundation and vegetables.co.nz will now work with other key agencies, such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, and the Home Economics and Technology Teachers’ Association on developing steps to strengthen what is taught.  

“This will potentially include more consistency in what is being taught, a stronger focus on preparing a main meal including plenty of vegetables and fruit, and a central pool of resources and tools to enhance some of the work that is already being done.”

Monro also believes there is a key message beyond this research for parents “that they need to do what they can from an early age to get children in the kitchen and to teach them about food and food preparation”.

The Heart Foundation Kids' Kitchen website page has lots of ideas on how to engage kids in cooking at home or school or see our free related nutrition resources.