Cooking up an injustice: A critical examination of the role of cooking programs in reducing health inequalities

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    The way we eat is one of the biggest causes of preventable illness and death, particularly for those living in more deprived areas. Public health interventions often include courses teaching cooking ‘from scratch’ as an affordable means of dietary improvement, but this paper questions the effectiveness of such programs. Using an in-depth case study of a leading healthy cooking programme, including ethnographic observations of seven cooking classes and interviews with 35 participants and three members of staff, we show that the impact of this programme was limited by its adherence to conventional ‘nutrient-focused’ framings of healthy eating. Teaching based on this framing created confusion by separating nutrients from foods, hampered embodied learning of skills and ultimately failed to address how learnings could be integrated into the everyday lives of participants Unable to engage with inequities in access, preparation time, food environments or other sociocultural influences on eating habits, courses built on similarly nutricentric foundations will never be able to address the major barriers to healthy eating faced by their target participants. As an alternative, we propose that cooking courses grounded in a more ‘practice-based’ understanding of healthy eating would be more effective at changing dietary behaviours, especially in areas of higher deprivation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number3
    Pages (from-to)65-77
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Critical Dietetics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Open Access journal


    • Dietary transitions
    • Health inequalities
    • Practice theory
    • Nutritionism
    • Cooking
    • Eating habits


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