The promotion of practical cooking skills and community cohesion through after-school cooking clubs
Submitting InstitutionLeeds Trinity University
Unit of AssessmentSport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Summary of the impact
This case study highlights the impact of Leeds Trinity's Cooking
Communities Project in promoting intergenerational and multicultural
community relations through afterschool cooking clubs. The project
established school-based community cooking clubs in 17 schools in
disadvantaged areas of West Yorkshire, bringing together children and
adults from varying ethnic backgrounds to share cooking and eating
experiences. These clubs developed practical cooking skills and knowledge
of healthy eating in 250 young people, and helped break down social
barriers between individuals from different generational and cultural
backgrounds. Educational resources were developed and distrubuted to
schools across Yorkshire and Humberside, and the materials dveloped were
used in the development of a new Food Specialism Course for Higher Level
Teaching Assistants. Furthermore, local economic activity was stimulated
through the sourcing of local ingredients.
The work of Gatenby has evaluated the eating practices of children (9-18)
from varying social-economic backgrounds, focusing primarily on the
nutritional impact of school meals and the role of after school cooking
clubs in developing practical cooking skills. This work was initiated at
the University of Hull (2003 - 2006) and has been continued at Leeds
Trinity University (2006 - to date). Her work has included an evaluation
of Hull City Council's healthy school meals scheme (initiated in 2004),
which provides free school meals to approximately 20,500 children in
primary and special schools to help reduce health inequalities. Gatenby
recorded lunch time intakes using weighed records and weighed food diaries
to capture details of food consumed at home. The research established
important differences between the food portions provided in school and the
actual food consumed, which resulted in children failing to meet the
recommended School Food Trust nutritional guidelines (Gatenby, 2007;
Gatenby, 2010a; Gatenby, 2011a).
This work has been extended by evaluating the impact of developing
practical cooking skills in school children. While it has been suggested
that teaching young people practical cooking skills may improve dietary
quality, schools have reported that the current food technology lessons
are unable to include enough practical food preparation and cooking
sessions to help children develop the necessary life skills (Gatenby,
The need for such cooking clubs that develop practical cooking skills in
children was clearly demonstrated by initial survey work which highlighted
that 27% of the secondary school pupils who participated in the after
school cooking clubs did not know how to open a tin, 34% did not know how
to boil and egg and 20% could not follow a recipe (Gatenby, 2011b).
However, an evaluation survey of the project indicated that the cooking
clubs significantly improved the children's ability to prepare food and
cook healthy foods/meals (Gatenby, 2011b). Importantly, by bringing
together children and adults from varying backgrounds, individuals were
also able to share cooking and eating experiences, which helped break down
barriers between generations and cultures. The evaluations demonstrated
that when different age groups worked together, respect increased across
the generations (Gatenby et al. 2010). Furthermore, the older
adults who acted as cooking champions also reported increases in their
sense of self-worth and contribution to their community (Gatenby, 2011b).
References to the research
Peer review Publications:
• Gatenby, L. A. (2011a) Children's nutritional intake as part of
the Eat Well Do Well scheme in Kingston-upon-Hull — a pilot study. Nutrition
Bulletin. 36, pp. 87-94.
• Gatenby, L. A. Donnelly J, Connell R (2011b) Cooking
Communities: using multicultural after-school cooking clubs to
enhance community cohesion. Nutrition Bulletin. 36, pp.
• Gatenby, L. A. (2010a) Experiences and expectations for school
food; research conducted as part of the `Eat Well Do Well' scheme in
Kingston-upon-Hull. Education and Health 28 (4), pp.
• Gatenby, L. A. (2010b) Cooking Communities: An
intergenerational approach to after school cooking clubs. Complete
Nutrition Focus 2, pp. 5-7.
• Gatenby, L. A. (2007) Nutrient intakes in school children
across two local education authorities. Journal of Human Nutrition and
Dietetics 20, pp. 538-548.
• All Saints Education Trust (2007-2010)- £125,000
• Big Lottery Fund/Local Food (2010-2011)- £10,000
Details of the impact
In light of the research findings from Gatenby's work detailed above, she
and other staff members within Sport, Health & Nutrition established
the Leeds Trinity Cooking Communities Project. This was a four year
project (October, 2007 - November, 2011) funded by the All Saints
Education Trust (£125,000) and the Big Lottery Fund/Local Food (£10,000).
The Cooking Communities Project established a series of school-based
community cooking clubs (17 in total) in disadvantaged areas of West
Yorkshire, and aimed to develop young people's (11-18 years) food
preparation and cooking skills while also enhancing their understanding of
different generational and ethnic cultures. These clubs delivered 10 week
cooking courses (to approximately 250 children), which were led by food
technology teachers and `cooking champions'. These cooking champions were
older adults (between 50 and 85 years) from the local community who
volunteered to take part in the project (25 took part in total).
The impact of the Cooking Communities Project can be summarised in the
Nutritional Awareness: The project was successful in increasing
the practical cooking skills and nutritional knowledge of both the
children and cooking champions, helping to promote an awareness of healthy
eating. The after-school cooking clubs succeeded in increasing pupils'
enthusiasm and skills in food preparation and cooking. Interest in
cultural foods and cooking increased among those who participated in the
project, in addition to an increase in the frequency of cooking at home as
well. Importantly, the older adults who volunteered as cooking champions
also increased their food knowledge. For example, there was an increase in
the number of Champions making spicy and Asian foods at home after the
pilots. One of the cooking champions commented: "I have thoroughly enjoyed
being part of this pilot project; it has been a learning curve for me. I
can now make a hot curry sauce and use spices I have not tried before and
which I will continue to use."
Community cohesion: By bringing together children and older adults
from the community, social barriers were broken down and the level of
respect between generations increased. Furthermore, involving community
elders in this manner increased their sense of self-worth and contribution
to their community. The project team established links with local
charities/organisations within the community, such as Caring
Together in Little London and Woodhouse, Meanwood Elderly, STEP
the Elderly People) and the Extended
Services Inner North West Hub to recruit these cooking champions.
Before the cooking clubs, the cooking champions reported young people to
be `loud and bad mannered' and `intimidating when in groups on the
street', whereas after being involved in the projected they reported that
young people are `fun, energetic and enthusiastic.' One Cooking Champion
commented: "Best bit was spending time with a group of young people, they
were keen to learn and it was great to help and be part of this project."
Local economic activity: The cooking clubs also helped to support
local businesses and stimulate local economic activity. All ingredients
used in the cooking clubs were provided freely to the schools.
Importantly, all ingredients were sourced from local suppliers such as Doorstep Organics and Sykes House Farm, and from
community based projects such as Fresh
`n' Fruity (a lottery funded initiative that provides affordable
fruit and vegetables by establishing market stalls in deprived
communities). During the course of the project over £6,000 was spent at
these outlets, providing significant financial support to local businesses
and helping to educate children and their families about the benefits of
Educational training & course development: Alongside the
afterschool cooking clubs, a range of educational training resources were
developed and freely distributed to schools across Yorkshire and
Humberside. These resources included information regarding nutritional
guidelines, hygiene training and recipe packs, and were designed to allow
schools to establish their own cooking clubs. To date, over 150 resource
packs have been dispatched to schools across Yorkshire and Humberside.
Furthermore, the course materials developed as part of the Cooking
Communities Project have been used in the development and delivery (by
Gatenby) of a Food Specialism Training Course for Higher Level Teaching
Assistants (HLTA) run by Leeds Trinity University.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Details of the project have been added to the Food Vision website
(Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) as an example of best
- Details of the evaluation of the Cooking Communities project are
a. Gatenby, L.A., Donnelly, J., Connell, R. (2011) Cooking Communities:
using multicultural after-school cooking clubs to enhance community
cohesion. Nutrition Bulletin. 36, pp. 108-112.
b. Gatenby, L.A. (2010) Cooking Communities: An intergenerational
approach to after school cooking clubs. Complete Nutrition Focus 2,
- Leeds Trinity University Cooking Communities - http://www.leedstrinity.ac.uk/cooking.