The UK’s obesity endemic requires practical interventions that can reduce the significant health, social and economic burdens of obesity on society.
The current literature exploring the inter-relationships between home-cooked food, convenience food, and dietary outcomes, is equivocal. Relationships between time spent on food preparation and socio-demographic variables appear to be complex, with full-time employment, low income and being male all associated with less time spent cooking. Because of the hypothesised lack of cooking skills in the general population, the last decade has witnessed a rise in the number of interventions developed to address this perceived skills gap. However, there has been little consideration of their theoretical basis and few rigorous outcome evaluations or translational studies.
Two reviews of cooking skills interventions have concluded that no evidence to-date is robust enough to conclusively determine that such interventions can influence dietary outcomes. Based on these reviews, we recommended that a definitive outcome evaluation should be conducted, but that this should be preceded by a pilot study to overcome any methodological limitations (see our Phase 1 report). Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food (JOMoF) was identified as the most suitable cooking skills intervention as the focus on an RCT because of its scale and sustainability.
The overarching aim of this programme of research was to establish the feasibility of conducting a definitive RCT of a cooking skills intervention (JOMoF). The work was undertaken in four linked work packages (WP), with the following aims:
WP1 – To explore the prevalence of cooking skills in the UK, and associations between cooking skills and diet quality and body weight
WP2 – To establish whether the intervention is feasible and worth evaluating
WP3 – To establish whether the methods proposed for a definitive RCT are feasible, and whether both the methods and the intervention itself are acceptable to participants and stakeholders
WP4 – To establish whether the methods for economic evaluation of a definitive RCT are feasible.
The JOMoF cooking skills course in the UK is an 8-week, 8-session course which aims to impart basic cooking skills and techniques, as well as provide nutritional, hygiene-related, and food ethos information to all participants. Ministry of Food centres exist in Rotherham, Leeds, Bradford, and Newcastle upon Tyne. All of the current centres are located in large urban areas with high levels of deprivation.