A culinary universe designed to engage children in cooking in school and at home
MY kitchen was introduced to schools across Denmark for the first time in the fall of 2014 as a culinary universe based on a free cookbook by the same name. By the autumn of 2016 the cookbook has been distributed to more than 200,000 pupils – that’s is nine out 10 Danish pupils from 4th to 7th grade…The project is made possible by Nordea-fonden, which has funded the project and thereby secured the continuous dissemination of the universe as well as the cookbook.
Danish elementary schools offer cooking classes to pupils from 4th to 7th grade, and from 2014 the teachers of these classes have had the opportunity to order the cookbook MY kitchen for free. The book is a gift for the children, which means that they can take it home and do not have to return it. However, the cookbook is also used in class, with the aim of providing the children with inspiration, knowledge and an aspiration of food, and to engage them in cooking to point that they take over the kitchen at home.
Taking over the kitchen
Providing the children with a book of their own compel them to take ownership and improve the chances of fulfilling the aim, and the results are clear. In 96 pct. of Danish households it is the parents who cook dinner, however, with MY kitchen at hand, 68 pct. of the children state that they cook more at home, and close to 50 pct. state that they take over the cooking entirely, sending their parents out of the kitchen. The numbers stem from an evaluation report of MY kitchen made by The University of Aarhus. The report is based on a qualitative evaluation by means of interviews with pupils and teachers, as well as a quantitative evaluation using digital surveys responded by close to 1,100 pupils and 300 teachers.
Overall, the evaluation concludes that the aim of the project has been met. Professor Karen Wistoft, Department of Education at Aarhus University, responsible for the health-promoting profile of the cookbook, and co-author of the rapport, elaborates: “The evaluation report shows us that children dare to take over the kitchen and take ownership of the cooking and the meals. In this way, the children themselves affect the food culture that they are a part of, both in school as well as at home, and in their free time with their friends.”
The recipe for success
The recipes have primarily been selected by children and have then been taken under review by eight chefs with expertise in children’s cooking, converting the recipes into a cookbook full of easy step-by-step directions and colourful pictures. All recipes are also found in the online universe mitkokkeri.dk alongside video guides and cooking tricks.
Creating this culinary universe with the children in focus has paved the way for the project’s success. It allows for them to take ownership and work independently in the kitchen, due to the easy-to-follow recipes and online guides. Furthermore, Søren Ejlersen, founder of the non-profit organisation behind MY kitchen, Haver til Maver, says that: “When the children are allowed to experiment with food, they not only learn how to handle kitchen utensils and foods. They also gain an awareness of quality as well as an appreciation of food which is made from good ingredients, and they also get more critical towards fast food and foods of poor quality. Simply because they know how real food tastes, smells and looks.”
Food club future
Beyond the continuous dissemination of the cookbook, the culinary universe it set to expand with a digital MY kitchen food club-concept. The aim is to inspire locale organisations and activities directed at children in social housing areas to create motivational conditions for the use of the cookbook, in order to create a love of food and a sense of community. For this purpose, a digital platform is to be created, which provides the interested parties with instructional videos and material for inspiration. The creation of food clubs will allow children to meet up and explore the world of food, taste and cooking, thereby creating breeding ground for a healthy food culture.
Good living in Denmark
Nordea-fonden has funded the MY kitchen-project twice running. “It is important to Nordea-fonden to be supportive of improving the food- and meal culture in Denmark; both in school, at home and in free time. Dietary habits are founded from childhood and cooking provides the opportunity to play, be creative, and get sensuous experiences. That is why we at Nordea-fonden wishes to contribute in order for children to acquire knowledge, healthy dietary habits and experiences with cooking as well as eating healthy food. We hope that the cookbook will inspire a whole generation of children to a greater love of food and food knowledge,” says Henrik Lehmann Andersen, CEO at Nordea-fonden, which supports good living and promotes public health.
Facts about MY kitchen
My kitchen is a culinary universe aimed at children aged 10-15. The universe consists of a website and a cookbook, which is meant to provide inspiration, knowledge and aspiration of fun and healthy cooking – both outside and indoors.
MY kitchen is a free offer aimed at all children in Denmark. The cookbook can be ordered as a class set, free of charge, and is to be used in cooking class as well as at home. The book is the a gift for the children and is therefore not to be returned to the school.
All 175 recipes in the book can also be found on mitkokkeri.dk alongside instructional videos for almost all main course as well as videos of cooking tricks. The recipes are all written as step-by-step guides so that the children easily and independently can follow the recipes and create healthy meals.
In connection with the start of school in the fall of 2016, 900 schools across Denmark had ordered the cookbook. It is to be used in cooking class as well as for the assignment of tasty homework. Over 200,000 books have been distributed since 2014.
The follow-up research was carried out in 2015 by Aarhus University. Questionnaires were distributed to 1,852 email addresses, and 282 teachers and 1,036 pupils responded. The research is concluded in the evaluation rapport MIT kokkeri, which can be found here (the evaluation report is only available in Danish).