We just came across some data which frankly, blew our minds.

According to the Food Sustainability Index’s global study which ranked 25 countries on nutrition, agriculture and food waste, Australia is scoring about as good as our soccer team in the world cup when it comes to:

– The number of people per fast food restaurant (we ranked the worst of all 25 countries)
– Prevalence of sugar in diets
– Consumer food waste
– Being over nourished

These issues are complex, interconnected and simply too hard to tackle all at once. Maybe that’s the problem; everyone seems to be attacking this issue head on and at full speed, which is great, but what are some of the factors at the core of these issues?

Our YFM upstart participants have identified one of the underpinning factors: the deadly decline of cooking.

The death of the dinner table!

Millennials are buying more ready-made food than any other generation , leaving us to speculate whether cooking skills are going out the window along with the sit-down dinner. The threat echoes an ongoing concern amongst the developed world regarding the decline of cooking and the loss of cooking skills, both of which are implicated in the rise of NCDs such as in obesity & heart disease.

The trend away from cooking has also been seen in other communities, such as the UK. Some of the reasons for this are: a lack of cooking skills, the rise of convenience/fast food markets, the demise of home economics in schools, and time scarcity. This has given rise to what academics call an ‘obesogenic’ environment. This is a succinct (we’re busy right!?) way of saying that the world around us is designed where being able to cook is no longer a necessity and the quick, cheap alternatives available are often less healthy.

What freaks us out a little more is that this is a new trend – so not something experienced by our parents or grandparents. In short, we millennials are going to be most affected.

But It’s not all bad news! We already know we should eat less takeaway and more fruit and veg, as it is one of the strongest predictors of good health. A recent study also showed that millennials are the “most likely group to want to adopt healthier eating habits, eat more veggies and cook at home more”. As young people we have the opportunity to reclaim our kitchens as sites of creativity, advocacy and rebellion. We can recreate the meaning of kitchens in the culture of millennials.

Cooking spices

Why we love the shit out of cooking, in short:

– Cooking gives us agency, enabling active participation in our food system.

– Through cooking with whole foods like fruit and vegetables we can deepen our connection with our food and create an appreciation for our hard working farmers who grow it.

– Cooking kicks waste to the curb buy reducing take away containers and food packaging. Also, expanding cooking skills can lessen wastage through a greater understanding of the ingredients, how to combine them outside of a specific recipe, and what parts can be eaten (who knew you can eat celery leaves!?).

– Cooking is connection; it brings people together and provides a foundation for the most basic human connections, like sharing a meal, a birthday cake, or a beer with a mate.

This is why the YFM cohort have been busy designing events all around the country to help up-skill, inspire, and advocate for cooking skills amongst young people.

Yelling hells yeah at your phone or fist pumping in agreeance right now? See what we got up to during our Heaps Cooked national event series.

Bridget Horsey