An initiative sponsored by the Association pour la santé publique du Québec

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Translation of this website has been made possible through financial support from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Health Canada.

The views expressed herein represent the views of the Weight Coalition and do not necessarily represent the views of the project funders.


Snapshot of the Situation

Young people don’t know how to cook anymore!

In the United States, nearly one-quarter (23%) of boys 18 to 23 years of age and almost one out of five young women (18%) reportedly have inadequate cooking skills [1] (Canadian data not available at time of writing). This loss of basic culinary knowhow is believed to be responsible in part for the population’s increased dependence on processed foods and restaurants.

Dependence on restaurants and processed foods

The consumption of processed foods purchased in grocery stores or prepared in restaurants has grown steadily over the past few decades [2, 3].

  • 84% of Quebec adults eat out at least once a week [4].
  • On average, Quebecers eat 2.5 meals per week in restaurants [5].
  • More than 50% of young Quebecers eat at least one meal per week in restaurants or fast-food establishments [6].

At the same time, advertising for numerous processed foods available on the market enjoys cultivating the myth that cooking is a time-consuming drudgery [7].

Impact on quality of diet

According to a literature review conducted by Health Canada, the lack of food and cooking knowhow could have a major impact on quality of diet and health [8].

In this regard, more and more studies are reaching this very conclusion, asserting that young adults who cook regularly consume less fast and fried food and meet more of the daily nutritional recommendations [9, 10, 11].

In addition, children who cook, explore food with the five senses, or garden are more willing to taste new foods, are more open to a variety of foods, and seem to eat more fruits and vegetables [12, 13, 14, 15, 16].

Learning to cook at home not always possible!

With today’s frantic pace of life, reconciling work and family life is a veritable challenge for certain parents. This has led to the increasingly frequent use of processed foods requiring a minimum amount of preparation.

Many children rarely see their parents cook and some parents no longer feel that they possess the requisite notions to transmit to their children [17]. Whereas 8 out of 10 adults saw their parents cook every day, only about 4 out of 10 parents today cook every evening [18]. Hence, children have fewer opportunities to learn at home.

Competencies no longer explicitly part of mission of Quebec schools

Cooking has not been taught in Quebec schools since the 1997 education reform, L’école, tout un programme. This refashioning of the school curriculum followed the publication of various works on education and took into account the recommendations of the Working Group on Curriculum Reform, which suggested eliminating Home Economics from the list of compulsory subjects. This course was considered outdated at the time. The new program today covers food and cooking competencies less directly, including them primarily in the “Health and Well-being” area of learning.

Given the existing obesity epidemic and the challenge of juggling work and family life in today’s society, the fact that some young people are deprived of this knowhow is cause for concern. Consequently, including the development of food and cooking competencies as part of the school’s mission is drawing more and more support from the health and social services network, the education world, and the Quebec population.

Would you like to discuss this topic with us?

Contact Anne-Marie Morel, Nutrition Policy Project Manager:


[1] Larson, N. I., Perry, C. L, Story, M. & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2006). Food Preparation by Young Adults Is Associated with Better Diet Quality. JADA, 106, 2001-2007.

[2] Blanchet, C., Plante, C. & Rochette, L. (2009). La consommation alimentaire et les apports nutritionnels des adultes québécois. Rapport de l’Enquête sur la santé dans les collectivités canadiennes (Cycle 2.2). Québec: Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Consulted on July 5, 2011.

[3] & [8] Health Canada (2010). Improving cooking and food preparation skills. A synthesis of the evidence to inform program and policy development. Consulted on July 6, 2011.

[4] & [5] Web survey by SOM based on a representative sample of 1004 francophone adults in Quebec (March 31- April 10, 2011) in Allard, M., La Presse, June 29, 2012. Consulted on July 24, 2012.

[6] Lavallé, C. (2004). Enquête sociale et de santé auprès des enfants et des adolescents québécois. Volet nutrition, Institut de la statistique du Québec.

[7] & [16] Lichtenstein, A. H. & Ludwig, D. S. (2010). Bring Back Home Economics Education. JAMA, 303 (18), 1857-58.

[9] Larson, N. I., Perry, C. L, Story, M. & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2006). Food Preparation by Young Adults Is Associated with Better Diet Quality. JADA, 106, 2001-2007.

[10] & [11] Larson, N. I., Perry, C. L, Story, M. & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2006). Food preparation and purchasing roles among adolescents: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and diet quality. JADA, 106, 211-218.

[12] Bisset, S. L., Potvin, L., Daniel, M. & Paquette, M. (2008). Assessing the impact of the primary school-based nutrition intervention: Petits cuistots--parents en réseaux. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 99 (2), 107-113.

[13] Mustonen, S. Tuorila, H. (2010). Sensory education decreases food neophobia score and encourages trying unfamiliar foods in 8-12-year-old children. Food Quality and Preference, 21 (4), 353-60.

[14] Reverdy, C., Schlich, P., Köster, E. P, Ginon, E. & Lange, C. (2010). Effect of sensory education on food preferences in children. Food Quality and Preference, 21 (7), 794–804.

[15] Robinson-O'Brien, R. (2009). Impact of Garden-Based Nutrition Intervention Programs: A Review. JADA, 109 (2), 273-80.

[17] Vorobief, S. (2009). Programme Un trésor dans mon jardin. Synthèse des résultats d’évaluation. Consulted on March 28, 2013.

[18] Projet Tout le monde à table. Consulted on july 16, 2014.

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