Food Skills Expert

Saturday, July 28, 2012

International Federation for Home Economics - XXII World Congress in Melbourne

July 16-21 July, 2012
And what a week it was for 700 home economists and health professionals from around the world gathered in Melbourne, Australia.
The IFHE World Congress is held every four years - it is truly an Olympic event for Home Economics where latest research and education ideas are shared and opportunities for networking are infinite.

Our keynote speaker Dr Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya International, spoke about gender equity as part of her description of her 'nine seeds' biodiversity project in India and the role of women as the harvesters of original seeds. Read more here  at Navdanya International
Read more about the program here at IFHE World Congress.

We also welcomed Melbourne Home Economist and CEO of Home Economics Victoria, Ms Carol Warren as our International Federation for Home Economics new President.
We are justly proud of Carol as we are of Ms Gail Boddy our Executive Officer, IFHE Pacific Region and Professor Tony Worsley our incoming Vice-President, IFHE Pacific Region.

I had the pleasure to present 2 papers based on my research.
Predictors of the importance of food skills amongst home economics teachers the aim of which  was to investigate relationships between demographic characteristics and life orientations of home economics teachers as predictors of the importance of the essential food skills that ought to be taught to students in secondary schools in Victoria, Australia. 

Food Skills Rating Checklist:  An evaluation instrument for use in skill-based programs in schools.
The aim of this study was to develop a food skills rating checklist that could be used as a food skills evaluation instrument by home economics teachers and other facilitators of skill-based programs.  To the best of our knowledge, no reliable and validated evaluation instrument currently exists. 
Research  is currently being conducted.  Initial results suggested that a rating skills checklist would have merit and application for use by home economics teachers in schools and other facilitators in community skill-based programs.  The use of a reliable, validated rating checklist would provide home economics teachers with a sustainable and valuable tool to help them evaluate students’ progression of food skills. 


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are you interested in joining a Food Skills Network?

Food Skills Network Group
Many researchers, health professionals including community nutritionists and nurse educators as well as teachers have contacted me about a reliable food skills evaluation tool. 
There are many food skills experts out there! It has been great to exchange updates, resources and information to progress our understadning of this important area.
Please let me know if you are interested in joining in on the fun- contact me for more information.

Community Nutrition in Canada
Over the last few months I have had made several new contacts from Community Nutritionists and Nurses working with people in community programs in Canada. 
There has been a great deal of activity mostly in response to these health professionals searching for tools to support their community programs.

Tracy, a community nutritionist in Vancouver

I have been a Community Nutritionist working at the Vancouver Island Health Authority in Victoria, British Columbia for 7 years now, and have worked on primarily individual and community food security related projects within the region.  

Recently, we have seen an increased interest and call from the community to develop individual & household food skills, and have been working on some proposals that would work to enhance and develop the food skills of the community as a whole (Community Food Skills).   I had been searching online for a working definition of food skills as well as a validated tool that would be a summary measure or indicator of food skills – this led me to you.  Your response has come at an opportune time, and I would very much like to take a look at your “Food Skills Rating Checklist” and discuss a variety of potential community settings that we could apply this tool.  

I have attached a very rough concept of a “Food Skills Continuum” that I have developed for a recent food skills project.  I would be very interested in talking with you not only about your Checklist but also if you have a working definition of “Individual and Community Food Skills” and how community nutrition educators can work to move individuals through the continuum - I think that this is really missing in the literature as well.  

Lydia, a researcher and a community nurse who is currently working on her Masters is about to release a community food skills tool of her own which may be more applicable to those of you looking for an evaluation tool specific to community, rather than a school setting.

 My study actually created a valid and reliable tool to assess the food skills in a community.  I used the Ministry of Health Promotion of Ontario's definition of food skills which was also later used in a literature review associated with Health Canada.  Here is a link to that definition:

It is on page 36.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Upcoming Conferences and Meetings

HEIA's 20th Birthday Celebrations in Canberra 4-5 April 2014

Hot on the heels of HEIA's successful bid to have home economics included in the Australian curriculum, the team from HEIA are hosting their 20th birthday celebrations in Canberra.  Visit HEIA's new web site to find out more.

International Congress of Dietitics in Sydney September 2012

Click here for the link 

Helen Vidgen (Food Literacy expert) from Brisbane, Queensland has organised a symposium for Thursday 6th September titled


Food Literacy: The role of dietitians in developing food knowledge skills

Presenters: Helen Vidgen, Andrea Begley, Sandra Fordyce Voorham, Rie Imoto, Danielle Gallegos
“Food literacy” is an emerging term used to describe the ability to understand the nature of food and how it is important. It also describes the knowledge and skills to gather, process, analyse and act upon information about food and to apply it in different contexts. This symposium will provide an overview of three key Australian studies which examine practical approaches to the improvement of food literacy in education settings and in public health nutrition and dietetic practice. It will hear from the experiences of the United Kingdom and Japan in endeavouring to address the practical implications of meeting nutrition guidelines.

2.00 –
Danielle Gallegos
Food literacy: what is it and how does it relate to nutrition
2.05 –
Helen Vidgen
Food skills: what are they and how do they inform the development of a food skills-based curriculum in Australian schools
2.20 –

Sandra Fordyce-Voorham

The role of dieticians in using cooking skill interventions
2.35 –
Andrea Begley
The UK experience: lessons from 20 years of promoting food literacy
Prof Martin Caraher
What is Shokuiku?
Prof Rie Imoto
Panel discussion and questions from the floor
3.30 –
Dr Danielle Gallegos

Presenter Abstracts:
Food literacy: what is it and how does it relate to nutrition: This presentation will examine the meaning of food literacy, it components and present a theoretical framework of the relationship between food literacy and nutrition.  The presentation is informed by the results of a series of studies including a Delphi of food experts from diverse sectors and settings and a phenomenological study of consumers; using the case study of disadvantaged young people leaving their parental home for the first time.  The presentation proposes a planning and evaluation framework for food literacy work and discusses where it might sit within broader food and nutrition systems.

Food Skills: what are they and how do they inform the development of a food skills-based curriculum in Australian schools: This presentation will examine the essential food skills that are required to be taught to enable young people to live healthy and independent lives.  These food skills have been identified by interviewing six groups of fifty-one food experts, including independent young people.   The results of a second study involving a quantitative survey of 271 home economics educators within Australia verified the essential food skills that teachers believe ought to be taught in food skills-based programs in Australian secondary schools.  This presentation outlines the attributes of a food-skills based curriculum that works towards improving the healthy eating behaviours of young people. 

The role of dietitians in using cooking skill interventions:  This presentation will critique the use of cooking skill interventions by nutritionists and dietitians in Australian public health nutrition practice drawing on findings from two research projects.  The first project is a quantitative survey of practitioners in Western Australia describing their use of cooking skill interventions in practice funded by Healthway and the second research project is qualitative interventions with practitioners exploring issues in delivery of cooking skill interventions, evaluation challenges and personal training experiences of practitioners in the area of cooking.  The paper will demonstrate the breadth of the use of cooking skill interventions but at the time highlight areas for improvement.

The UK experience: lessons from 20 years of promoting food literacy: The UK experience will set out the historical landscape of public health interest in cooking from the early 1800s. Current experiences related to the Jamie Oliver initiative on schools and cooking will bring the presentation up to date and parallels drawn with the early public health approaches. This latter perspective will be informed by data on changing skill sets in the general community. Two studies on cooking interventions, one in schools, the second in a community setting will help frame the evidence for such interventions. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of the recent policy proposal to introduce compulsory cooking for all 11-14 year olds and the withdrawal of that policy.

What is Shokuiku?: Shokuiku Law as a national movement in Japan:  This presentation will explain Shokuiku Law (Food and Nutrition Education Basic Act) which came into effect in 2005 in Japan.  This Law is a collaboration between Departments of Health, Education and Agriculture and represented a new approach to food and nutrition in schools and communities.  The presentation will also examine strengths and learnings from is approach and propose the role of Shokuiku for the next stage in food education.

Presenter Bios:
Danielle Gallegos is a social dietitian-nutritionist with a strong research and teaching profile at the Queensland University of Technology, she has over 20 years experience in working in the community and public health nutrition setting. Her focus has been on the nexus between translating food into good health outcomes across broad social environments.

Helen Vidgen is a dietitian, nutritionist and home economist with almost 20 years experience working across the health continuum in government, university, private and non-government settings, in urban and regional Australia.  Most recently she has worked as a public health nutritionists and is currently undertaking her PhD in food literacy.

Sandra Fordyce-Voorham is a home economics educator who has taught food skills in schools in Australia and the Netherlands.   She has championed the development of food skills programs in schools in a voluntary capacity in non-government organisations and home economics professional associations at the state, national and international level.   She is currently teaching food skills in an independent K-12 school in Melbourne, Victoria and is undertaking a PhD focusing on the evaluation of food skills-based programs in Australian secondary schools.

Andrea Begley is the Program Leader for Nutrition and Dietetics at Curtin University.  She has over 20 years experience in teaching nutrition and dietetic students and has witnessed a changing relationship between practitioner cooking skills and use of cooking skill interventions in practice.  She is currently completing a DrPH on reconceptualising cooking skills for health.

Martin Caraher is professor of food and health policy at the Centre for Food Policy at City University, London. He has worked on ‘food knowledge’ and cooking skills for over 20 years and is author of some of the key research on issues related to food and cooking in the UK situation. This has involved work on cooking and growing skills in communities and school. His focus is on public health programmes and the role of food literacy as an advocacy tool.

Rie Imoto, Ph.D. (Pedagogy), is a professor of home economics education and environmental education at Department of Health and Nutrition at Kagawa Nutrition University in Japan. She has worked in the development of food literacy curriculum with a particular focus on the environment.  She currently teaches Education students.   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's New in Food!

What is your healthy and fitness age?

Everyone has a chronological age but did you know we have a healthy and fitness age based on our food intake and energy output? Find out your healthy age at 
Click on the link and fill put the details to find out how you can work towards decreasing your age!

Do Food Safely

Did you know that the Victorian Department of Health has a free and user friendly interactive guide to help people of all ages learn about food safety? Directed towards food vendors in commercial settings, the information can be helpful to teachers and young people and teachers in schools and homemakers in domestic settings. The animations make this a fun way of learning about food safety in a fun way too. Participants can print out a non-accredited certificate for their efforts!
Go to
Thank you and Kudos goes to Mira Antoniou, Senior Food Safety Officer at the Dept. of Health, Melbourne


Food Solution for 'Can't Cookers'

Young people are accessing home cooked family frendly meals for around $10 from people out-sourcing their food skills.  With the time it takes to access and transport the food across town, the cost for a home cooked meal escalates.  I have blogged before about my potential concerns with 'what to do when there is a consumer grievance' such as a bout of food poisoning or cross-contamination with food allergens.
Read more at Web site fills a hungry void for those who lack kitchen talents

Pre-prandial icy dip in the Antarctic 

Claudia and I thought we were pretty brave as we enjoyed our Winter solstice dip today at Hampton Beach but spare a thought for the researchers at Casey Station. These brave ice bergers will intake a dip in the icy waters of the Antarctic before they enjoy an eight course meal!

Food Rules for 'Eating-in' and 'Eating out'

The Food Rules author Michal Pollan makes suggestions on what to choose from the restaurant menu - to eat more healthily, responsibly and sustainably.  If you don't know the provenance of the food you're eating - ask. Be an informed consumer and make sure the waiting staff can advise you on the source of the food you are putting into your mouth!
Pollan provides top tips for diners when 'eating out' - Choose a steak to be 'well done' and you're in for a tougher piece of meat!
Read more

Are Alpacas the new Kangaroo?

Innovative and creative alpaca farmers have found a way to use the whole beast. No longer prized for their furry pelt they have edible merit too!
Kangaroo meat is well known for its iron-rich and lean properties which appeals to health and gourmet aficionados - likewise alpaca promises to be an adjunct to exotic animal eaters' diets.
Read more in an article published in The Age on June 4th, 2013.
Alpacas amble on to nation's dinner plates.

Income in Kind - Exchange your Garden Produce Glut for Local Food Wares

What a great way for back yard home gardeners to share their over-supply of produce by resource exchanging with their local cafes!
Here is a fabulous idea where keen gardeners swap their home produced veggies and fruit for a free meal or a couple of loaves from their local cafe.

Read more Cafes' new sources have rich local flavour The Age, 01/06/13
Reduce food miles and boost community spirit! Now that is Home Economics at its best!

My views on competitive cooking shows on TV

As you know I am not fond of competitive cooking TV shows which pit contestants against one another to create adventurous meals beyond their capability, only to be brought down to size by guest judges in the celebrity hospitality industry. 
These shows are just no good in building up people's cooking confidence - confidence is a HUGE factor in contributing to people's motivation and enjoyment of cooking.

Many of my home economics colleagues and their students are crazy about these shows (I have not sat through one entire show) and certainly they have contributed to the resurgence of home economics in schools, which is a plus for us.

But how about we leave OTT (Over the Top) food to those who enjoy the task and who are experts in the trade? Sure these programs have contributed to a new generation of young people to become interested in cooking but are they keen to reproduce the recipes in class and at home?
Do these shows motivate young people enough to make everyday meals, day in and day out?  Will they approach everyday meal making as just too humdrum and boring?
I am keen to know your thoughts on this!

Watching 'Junior Masterchef' does not motivate young people to want to cook!

To validate my views, Rachel Goodchild as part of her Honours degree in Psychology found that there was no relationship between children's viewing 'Junior Masterchef' and wanting to cook at home.
Read more ...

Molecular Gastronomy - is it an authentic dining experience or a passing fad?

And whilst I am on the topic, my particular grievance is the current culinary fad of 'molecular gastronomy' made famous by chef artistes such as Hester Blumenthal and our local lad and ex-pat New Zealander Ben Shewry of Attica fame.
Yes - we are all very impressed and enjoy this whimsical dining experience but can we justify the wastage in both human (creativity, time and energy) and non-human resources - gas, electricity and money (for both maker and consumer) ... and the vast amount of food products used and wasted in the process of making these gorgeous tid-bits of culinary artistry?
Already we have seen the closure of the Costa Brava's El Bulli - will Noma in Copenhagen, the no. 1 top restaurant in the world, follow next?  What restaurant is next?  The not-so-skinny duck??

My guess is that these new wave 'culinary art' restaurants will gradually fade away just as cuisine minceur and nouvelle cuisine have disappeared from the culinary scene and have been relegated to the history books. 
These restaurants focus on the 'one-off' 'must-do' bucket-list of dining experiences.  It is the novelty of tasting culinary art; food that the average good home cook would not contemplate investing time, energy and money into creating for their family. 
What's more, most of the foods served in these establishments have the texture of foamy baby food - puree a  concoction of sweet corn, grated carrot, apple and peas, foam it up in your thermomix and voila  there you have it- an opportunity for naiive diners to reminesce and recreate their 'inner baby'!

And yet people flock to these establishements and are prepared to pay big dollars for this experience!
What worries me is the amount of money people are willing to spend on the food and experience - $200-300 per head while the majority of people in the world are food insecure.

Give me a good meal, made from simple, fresh, seasonal ingredients, prepared well and served lovingly and shared with family and friends - that's the ultimate.
And for the majority of meals that I have enjoyed in this category, most have been created at Casa Mia No. 3.

Aspiring chefs lure diners into their lounge rooms

And it appears that many home cooks share my view. I was intrigued to read an article in this Saturday's THE AGE (May 5th, 2012), titled Aspiring chefs lure diners into their lounge rooms.

For a donation or for the price of a home made meal, home cooks (mostly couples and singles) in Melbourne are cooking up a storm and inviting strangers through word of mouth to share their 'cook-ups'.
Great idea for the lonely hearts club who crave the food socialisation experience and the opportunity to share good food at a wholesome price!

But caveat emptor! We only need an outbreak of salmonella to bring this enterprise to its knees -council environment health officers are already starting to rub their hands together waiting for the first slip-up!!Antarctic dip for Casey Station Scientists