Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health


This thesis has a focus on the teaching of food skills to young people to assist them to plan and prepare tasty meals that will support their health and nutritional requirements. Hitherto, the food skills have not been well articulated in healthy eating programs purporting to improve young people’s eating behaviours. Nor has research been conducted on the teachers, as key practitioners who design and teach these programs, about the food skills they believe essential to teach. This thesis addresses these gaps and identifies the essential food skills that need to be included and taught in such programs. As part of the evaluation of skill-based healthy eating programs, an agreed set of food skills need to be identified and described. The thesis aimed to determine the food skills that teachers believe are essential to teach to potentially change young people’s eating behaviours.

The aim of Study 1 was to identify the food skills which should form the basis of skillbased healthy eating programs, specifically those operating in secondary schools. These food skills would enable students’ to make positive changes to their diet through appropriate food selection and shopping and the preparation and cooking of healthy meals.

In Study 1, interviews with fifty-one food experts were conducted to identify the essential food skills they thought were required by young people to plan and shop for food and to prepare and cook healthy meals for themselves and their families, now and in the future. Analysis of these qualitative data determined twelve essential skills which were then classified into two discrete areas as the declarative skills required to plan meals and the procedural skills required to shop for food and then prepare and cook meals.

The aim of Study 2 was to determine whether the essential food skills and recommendations put forward by the food experts matched those of the teachers. A quantitative survey of 251 predominantly home economics teachers was undertaken. The results of the survey were that the primary aim of the majority of teachers was to teach their students how to make healthy and tasty meals. The teachers reported they wanted to achieve this in ways that motivated their students to enjoy the process of making and then eating good food, typically with their peers and friends.

The respondents reported using a variety of evaluation tools to measure their students’ food skills acquisition. However, the use of evaluation tools to measure participants’ food skills acquisition has not been well documented. The aim of Study 3, therefore, was to develop a practical and easy-to-use tool that teachers could use at any stage of their program to measure their students’ food skills. As the majority of teachers had been found to focus on the procedural and task-centred skills required to make a meal, a tool was developed to measure the skills from the meal pre-preparation to meal service and post-meal cleaning-up.

Through an on-line experimental study, forty participants used a Food Skills Rating Checklist to compare three skill scenarios (low skills, good skills and excellent skills) relating to the preparation of an Asian-style stir-fry meal. The results of Study 3 indicated that the participants were able to use the Checklist to discriminate between the three different levels of skills demonstrated in the videos. The Checklist was found to be a valid and reliable evaluation tool; however, more research would need to be undertaken on the design of the tool and to be tested by a larger sample and a broader range of age and experience of teachers.

In summary, the results of this thesis showed that food skills need to be defined, articulated and measured as indicators used in the evaluation of skill-based healthy eating programs. The teachers who design and deliver these programs in schools need to be aware of the essential skills and incorporate them into their course content to support the success of their program. They need to identify and utilise the resources available to enhance their program and make it more enjoyable for their students to learn and acquire the skills. While the focus of this thesis is on the work of home economics teachers, since they teach food skills to young people, the research could be more broadly applied and used by practitioners delivering skill-based programs in nonschool settings. Further research is required and to extrapolate the findings’ suitability for use in community and school settings in Australia and elsewhere.