How do they feel about cooking? The status of cooking and food skills among young adults
Gaston, Marcy Elizabeth
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With negative perceptions and many cited barriers to cooking, along with the advances in technology promoting convenience foods, young adults may be entering adulthood without the basic cooking skills (CS) and food skills (FS) needed to stave off increases in obesity and chronic disease. Most of the previous research regarding the decline of CS and the perceptions of cooking have relied on quantitative designs. With few qualitative studies available, this study expands quantitative studies beyond a focus of older generations and shifts the focus to experiences within young adulthood. A historical overview of Home Economics in the United States and the state of Montana provided context for the current situation of declining cooking skills among several generations in America. A phenomenological qualitative approach was used to understand the shared experience of a phenomenon, that of the loss of CS and FS among young adults in the United States (Creswell & Poth, 2018). A total of 93 surveys from food and nutrition professionals (i.e., Registered Dietitian Nutritionists [RDN] and Family and Consumer Sciences [FCS] teachers) and 270 surveys (and 9 interviews) with young adults (ages 18-25) were completed. Young adults understood the health and nutritional benefits of CS and FS as they entered adulthood. They elaborated on the challenges related to cooking such as time, tight financial resources, and the lack of CS and FS. Food and nutrition professionals provided insight into challenges to teaching CS, such as lack of time and funding. Participants, collectively, shared that a hands-on approach to teaching CS and FS while utilizing social media would be the best strategy to address this issue. Understanding the historical roots of CS decline aligned with the contemporary experiences shared by participants, this research indicates that young adults want to learn CS and FS that are relevant to their own lives as they enter adulthood. By utilizing practical teaching solutions and concentrating on the foundational CS, young adults can have a better understanding of food and nutrition, and this may be an approach to address the nutrition-related health issues facing the United States.