In January, JNEB developed a collection of articles related to food skills. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now in the banner ads or collections section of the jneb.org website. What a broad range of subtopics in this collection!
Data from a longitudinal study from the US Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2 (ITFPS-2) were analyzed relative to the food preparation habits and variety of food textures offered to infants aged 7 months and older. It was not surprising to me that the progression from pureed to chopped reflected the child’s growth and development after age 7 months and moved primarily in parallel to the recommendations of key professional guidelines. What was surprising was the reporting of pre-chewing for infants and the discussion of the lack of evidence as to the benefits or drawbacks of such practices.1
In another study, children aged 8 to 9 years old participated in 3 workshops: selecting a recipe, shopping online for ingredients and being handed the actual ingredient that was selected, and cooking the recipe. The objective of the study was to decrease food neophobia, enhance vegetable choice and intake, and improve self-efficacy for cooking, which it accomplished as compared to a standard nutrition education group.2 It was the shopping component of this intervention that surprised me for this young group of children.
Results from a qualitative study involving managers of student-operated restaurants within dietetics or hospitality management programs surprised me when many replied that nutrition was not considered when planning menus, although healthier options were often included. However, nutrition was not believed to be a focus of the student-operated restaurant experience. For some, students were involved in menu planning, although in others, faculty planned the menus. 3 I wonder if the work by Maiz et al 2 could be adapted to use with the college experience somehow.
A Perspective in this collection by Raber and Wolfson 4 explores the challenging task of measuring home cooking behavior, explaining that cooking frequency and time spent cooking do not reflect higher or lower levels of food skill proficiency. For instance, being able to prepare a meal without a recipe demands a certain amount of skill, depending on the foods or dishes selected. I often use recipes as a starting point and change them to meet my own tastes, much to the consternation of those I share recipes with without including my alterations. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t done this, although it doesn’t always end well.
Finally, I wanted to comment on a Report by Black et al 5 that describes steps we can take to assure that teaching kitchens are appropriate and safe for older adults using the framework of the 5M Care Philosophy (mind, multi-complexity, medications, mobility, what matters most). Practice recommendations are provided within each of these domains as interpreted from the feedback of participants in the Healthy Teaching Kitchen program. When we get ready to have more face-to-face programs and cooking classes, this report can provide insight into working with older adults.
There are many other articles in this collection that I haven’t touched on, but I sometimes don’t acknowledge the important place that food skills have in all of our lives. Let’s not take them for granted as we move forward, advancing research, policy, and practice!