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An evaluation of Food Net Cook and Taste courses in Birmingham

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Food Net, a part of the Birmingham Community Nutrition and Dietetic Department, has been running Cook and Taste courses since 2001, targeting areas of high deprivation. The aim of Food Net is to improve skills, knowledge and attitude, and thus reduce barriers to eating a diet that is likely to protect against cancer (World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute, 2007) and cardiovascular disease (Department of Health, 2000). The overall aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of these courses on eating behaviour, 7–12 months after participation. Methods: 

Subjects (n = 41) were from a range of ethnicities and predominantly women (n = 39 and were a subset of those who had attended a Cook and Taste course between January and June 2006). Qualitative methods were used to analyse comments collected from participants at the final session of each course (n = 110), followed by a semi-structured, nonvalidated, telephone questionnaire 7–12 months after completing the course (n = 41), and six in-depth interviews with a purposive sample. Participants were asked to report their fruit and vegetable intake on the previous day, and to rate their confidence to cook a healthy meal on a scale of 1–6, at the first and final sessions of the course, and again in the telephone interview. Results: 

All subjects reported maintaining some positive changes to either their eating, cooking or shopping as a result of attending. At the final session of the course, participants reported an average increase in intake of fruit and vegetables of one portion day−1 (2.4–3.5) and an increase of one point in their confidence to cook (3.6–4.6 on a scale of 1–6), and this was maintained 7–12 months later. Success was attributed by subjects to the practical approach and the attitudes of the Food Health Advisers who ran the sessions. The main motivation for participants to change their behaviour was for their children's benefit. Discussion: 

These results suggest that this approach is effective for changing the eating behaviour of participants and their families. The Low Income, Diet and Nutrition Survey (Food Standards Agency, 2007) found that women in low-income groups consume an average of 2.4 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, which is comparable to the baseline in this study. The subjects in this study reported a higher average intake (3.5 portions) 7–12 months after participating in a Cook and Taste course. This reported increase may lead to long-term health gain (Brunner et al., 2007). Conclusions: 

Cook and Taste courses run by Food Net achieved reported beneficial changes to eating habits, which are maintained 7–12 months after participation, suggesting this is an appropriate way of promoting nutritional health in this population. References

Brunner, E.J., Thorogood, M., Rees, K. & Hewitt, G. (2007) Dietary Advice for reducing cardio-vascular disease: a review. The Cochrane collaboration, the Cochrane Library 2007, issue 4.

Department of Health (2000) Coronary Heart Disease: National Service Framework. Modern standards and service models. London: HMSO.

Nelson, M., Erens, B., Bates, B., Church, S. & Boshier, T. (2007) Low Income, Diet and Nutrition Survey. Food Standards Agency. London: The Stationery Office. Available at (accessed on 9 October 2008).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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