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Food curriculum research

Our latest research looks at the food skills year 8 children are learning in the classroom and whether this has changed since 2016.


In the New Zealand school curriculum, it’s expected that all children will have had the opportunity to learn practical cooking skills by the end of Year 8. Cooking meals and gathering as a family is a skill that’s proven in many cultures to be an essential ingredient for a healthy lifestyle. If we invest in developing basic cooking skills in our kids, it will set them up for life.

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

— Dave Monro, Chief Advisor Food & Nutrition


Original research conducted in 2016 showed there were large inconsistencies in what’s taught, how it’s taught and how much time is spent on the food curriculum across New Zealand. 

In 2016, only 13 per cent of teachers saw the skill to plan and prepare a complete meal as a teaching priority.

Chief Advisor Food and Nutrition, Dave Monro, says “the results showed that there were opportunities to provide updated educational resources that would better equip children with fundamental life skills to enable them to cook healthy meals”. 

Resources ‘by teachers, for teachers’

Using the 2016 study results, the Heart Foundation and took a ‘by teachers, for teachers’ approach. We collaborated with teachers to develop new materials to meet curriculum requirements. 

As a result, we launched:

  • A year 8 unit plan – including lesson plans and activities
  • A year 7 unit plan – including lesson plans and activities
  • A year 7 and 8 health and PE lesson plan.

Accompanying resources were also developed:

These educational resources were promoted to schools and food technology teachers. 

View food curriculum resources

Impact on teaching

In 2020, a follow-up study aimed to determine whether there had been any changes to the teaching of foods skills to year 8 children. A total of 175 food technology and nutrition teachers from 165 schools responded to an online survey.

Proportion of schools by decile

Over two-thirds of teachers reported using the food curriculum resources developed by the Heart Foundation and in their classes. 69% of teachers from low decile schools and 62% of teachers from high decile schools reported using the resources.2/3 of teachers

Since 2016, teachers reported an increase in teaching skills that relate to cooking a complete meal like mashing and stir-frying.

Food skills with the greatest increase


Since 2016 teachers reported cooking more dishes that contain vegetables like soup and less baked items like biscuits.



Changes to the types of dishes cooked in the classroom

When selecting recipes, the cooking time and cost of ingredients remain the top two factors considered by teachers. However, since 2016, nutrition and culture are the two factors that have seen the greatest increase.

Overall, the teachers found the resources acceptable for use in the classroom and they support students to try new foods and improve their confidence and cooking skills.

“There is a visible improvement with their cooking skills and confidence as each week progresses which is nice. Many are making the dishes at home after making them at school too."

— Food technology teacher trialling the unit plan

Future opportunities

Through the research, teachers identified the need for resources to be digitally interactive and for recipes to cater to broader dietary needs and for more emphasis on cultural recipes.

There is plenty to explore within these themes and the Heart Foundation continues to support to work with teachers, the Home Economics and Technology Teachers Association New Zealand (HETTANZ) and the New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling (NZAIMS) on professional development and promotion of the resources.

There were some limitations to the research being conducted during Auckland’s Covid-19 lockdown, however, there are plans to repeat the survey within the next 5 years.


Download the full research report

View food curriculum resources