Pilot of the youth chef academy: a plant based cooking
program for urban middle school students
A review of literature shows that few nutrition programs for middle school children involve a cooking component. The programs that do teach cooking tend to impart food preparation skills, food safety, hands-on tasting experiences and education about eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These programs have demonstrated positive effects on food behaviors and have educational value. However, Youth Chef Academy is the only program discovered that features the combination of:
The Youth Chef Academy aims to impart skills and knowledge that connect young people to healthy foods, empowering them with culinary skills to prepare healthy, tasty plant based meals and the context to appreciate their role in the local food system that produces and delivers food to them.
The Fondy Food Center was interested in working with an academic partner to test the feasibility of conducting the Youth Chef Academy in a classroom setting, and to design an evaluation of its effectiveness in achieving its goals.
Staff at the Fondy Food Center met Dr. Amy Harley, an Assistant Professor through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Public Health.
Together, they developed an evaluation plan that will hopefully help demonstrate the effectiveness of the Youth Chef Academy.
The Youth Chef Academy is a 12 session hands-on cooking- based nutrition and food systems education program that takes place in middle school classrooms. In 2010 a study to demonstrate the feasibility of conducting the Youth Chef academy in a middle school classroom was conducted by the project partners.
This study will expand on the initial demonstration project and will compare four control and four intervention classrooms in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). The students will be compared on their: healthy food consumption behaviors, cooking skills, willingness to eat new foods, knowledge of the local food system, and knowledge of healthy eating habits.
The evaluation plan includes parent surveys, pre- and post- student surveys, observations of students’ willingness to try new foods and cooking skills, a brief parent phone interview at completion of the curriculum, and student discussion groups. Data will be analyzed by observing changes in scores from pre- and post-surveys and qualitatively based on observations made by project staff.
July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2013
Anticipated program outcomes include increased knowledge of the local food system and of whole foods; increased ability to make healthy food choices; experience testing new foods; and acquisition of culinary skills including safe handling of chef’s knives and safe usage of open-flame burners; and increased weekly fruit and vegetable intake.