Part of the SNAP-Ed Strategies & Interventions Toolkit.*
Illinois Junior Chefs (IJC) is a direct education curriculum designed to improve dietary attitudes and behaviors in youth ages 8-13 through learning hands-on cooking skills and MyPlate food group education. IJC is a 10-hour cooking education program designed for five two-hour classes. Each class focuses on a food group and related cooking skills. Recipes provided let participants practice specific cooking skills for preparation of foods for the food group highlighted in each lesson. A variety of recipes are included in the curriculum as well as additional resource links for supplemental recipes. Recipe selection should be based on age-appropriate cooking tasks for the participants and culturally appropriate recipes for diverse audiences. Participants are recruited through eligible schools and community agencies. Eligible participants attend IJC classes at sites having access to running water and electricity for the purpose of hand washing, food safety, and preparing recipes that need cooking.
Read about the Illinois Junior Chefs Success Story.
IJC has been evaluated over multiple years using pre- and post-program surveys and pre- and post-program observational assessments of hands-on cooking skills. Analyses of survey data indicated that participants experienced significant improvements in cooking self-efficacy, cooking attitudes, fruit and vegetable preferences, and cooking behaviors (all p <.001) after participating in IJC. Although change in eating behavior is not a targeted outcome of the program, eating behaviors did improve from pre- to post-intervention (though not significantly, p = .073). Observational assessments of hands-on cooking skills with a subset of participants showed significant improvements from pre- to post-intervention in participants’ abilities to use a peeler, use a grater, beat and fold ingredients, measure ingredients, and crack eggs (all p < .05).
*SNAP-Ed Strategies & Interventions: An Obesity Prevention Toolkit for States is a compilation of interventions. The toolkit was developed by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, The Association of SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education Administrators (ASNNA), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Training and Research Translation (Center TRT), and the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the USDA. It is designed and updated to help state SNAP-Ed administrative and implementing agencies identify evidence-based obesity prevention programs and policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) strategies and interventions to include in their SNAP-Ed plans.