New research offers insight into food skills on the island of Ireland

Wednesday 03 September, 2014. New research by safefood which looked at consumers’ skills around food has found that knowledge of healthy eating on its own is not enough to improve dietary health.

Introducing the research, Food Skills: Definitions, influences and relationship with health, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said “When we think of the term ‘food skills’ we generally think just of cooking. However, food skills incorporate things like planning meals ahead, shopping and budgeting, and knowledge of basic food safety and nutrition. Knowledge of healthy eating is not enough on its own to improve dietary quality. When we’re not comfortable with preparing meals for ourselves, and this is a common scenario today, we’re more inclined to consume ready-made or takeaway meals, which are generally more expensive and less nutritious than meals cooked from scratch.”

Other findings in the report revealed that lack of time, attitudes, cost, lack of skills and confidence have all been cited as barriers to cooking. In addition, food and cooking skills remain strongly gendered, with more than twice as many women responsible for cooking meals as men.

There is clear evidence that developing our food skills can influence healthy eating behaviours” continued Dr Foley-Nolan. “What we all need are the food skills to plan tasty, quick meals, and these skills can range from preparing a shopping list within budget, to being able to chop an onion or cook a tasty stir fry.”

“There is a welcome trend towards increased interest in home cooking, with 42% of consumers¹ reporting that they cook their evening meal from scratch most evenings."

To encourage more people to get cooking at home, safefood teamed up with Tesco Ireland to sponsor Angeline's Home Cooks, a new cookery show which will make its debut on TV3 at 8.30pm on Thursday, 4 September. "This show will focus on simple, home-cooked recipes that are practical and taught by real home cooks to those who need a bit of help and encouragement and we hope it inspires a new generation to cook for themselves”, added Dr Foley-Nolan.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact

Dermot Moriarty / Julie Carroll, safefood

Tel: 01 448 0622 / 086 381 1034 (Dermot) 01 448 0619 (Julie)

press@safefood.eu

¹safefood / Millward Brown ‘Safetrak’ survey of 800 adults on the island of Ireland (Feb 2014).

Editor’s Notes

  • Food skills would be defined as cooking skills which incorporate nutrition knowledge, food safety knowledge, consumer awareness, planning and budgeting, cooking, food preparation and handling skills.
  • Numerous factors such as age, gender, social class, knowledge and attitudes can influence food skills, affecting food choice and therefore overall health. Food and cooking skills seem to be strongly gendered household tasks, with more than twice as many women responsible for cooking meals. In addition, women, on average, show higher level of skill and are more confident in their abilities.
  • Food skills have changed with changes in food consumption habits, with more reliance on convenience foods. Convenience food products can be viewed as having both positive and negative effects on dietary quality. Such foods have introduced variety into diets but at the same time their excessive consumption is linked with changes in body fat percentage and BMI. Lack of food skills has been shown to be associated with higher consumption of pre-prepared foods.
  • A lack of time; attitudes; cost; a lack of skills and lack of confidence have all been cited as barriers to cooking.
  • Although almost all parents surveyed reported that it is important for children to learn how to cook and the majority of children surveyed report that they would like to improve their cooking skills, only half the children reported cooking, at most, twice a year at school.