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Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-.

Cover of Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews

Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet].

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Communities that cook: a systematic review of the effectiveness and appropriateness of interventions to introduce adults to home cooking

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Review published: .

CRD summary

The authors concluded that evidence on the effects of adult home cooking courses in the UK was inconclusive due to a lack of high quality evaluations of these schemes. These conclusions reflect the paucity of high quality evidence and appear reliable.

Authors' objectives

To identify and summarise findings from evaluations of UK home cooking courses.


Eighteen databases (including MEDLINE, EMBASE and The Cochrane Library) and 39 websites (including specialist registers and library catalogues) were searched from 1995 to February or March 2011. Reference lists of retrieved studies were handsearched and more than 30 key informants and experts were contacted to locate further studies.

Study selection

Eligible studies evaluated a course aimed at providing skills and knowledge about home cooking to groups of adults (aged 16 years and older) in the UK. Studies had to be published from 1995 onward and report data on outcomes (such as effectiveness for improving participant skills, knowledge, confidence, behaviours, health status) and/or processes (such as drop-out rates, course satisfaction ratings). Outcome evaluations were required to have a comparative group design and process evaluations needed to have adequate description of data collection and/or data analysis methods. Evaluations of courses that focused on academic or professional qualifications were excluded.

Almost two-thirds of the included studies were process evaluations. All of the courses aimed to teach cooking skills among low income adults in order to improve diet and health. More than half of the courses targeted the general population or parents (mostly mothers); the rest were tailored for people according to particular life stages, specific illness and/or ethnic backgrounds (sometimes multiple categories). Course content reportedly included practical skills, eating healthily, food hygiene and budgeting and shopping skills. Very few studies gave descriptions of the actual content and format of cooking classes. Various types of professionals developed and delivered the courses; most were delivered in a community setting. Outcomes were mostly self-reported or structured interviews. The duration of most courses was between 12 and 20 hours over a period between six and 10 weeks.

Multiple reviewers selected studies for inclusion in the review; the quality of the screening process was assessed in pairs (by three reviewers) using a sample of records.

Assessment of study quality

The quality of outcome evaluations was assessed using EPPI-Centre criteria for bias in relation to selection, attrition and outcome reporting. Quality of process evaluations was assessed according to sampling, data collection, data analysis and the extents to which participants' perspectives were privileged and to which findings were supported by data and achieved good breadth and/or depth.

Quality assessment was performed independently by two reviewers; any discrepancies were resolved by discussion (sometimes involving a third reviewer).

Data extraction

Data on outcomes were extracted using a modified version of a data extraction tool.

Two reviewers extracted these data independently; any discrepancies were resolved by discussion with a third reviewer.

Methods of synthesis

Data were presented in a narrative synthesis divided into two sections (outcome evaluations and process evaluations).

Results of the review

Thirteen studies were included in the review: five outcome evaluations (approximately 647 participants) and eight process evaluations (number of participants not reported). Only one of the five studies that were appraised for quality was assessed as having avoided selection, attrition and selective reporting biases. As a result, this was the only outcome evaluation study included in the narrative synthesis.

Outcome evaluations (five studies): A cluster randomised controlled trial (304 participants) of a peer-led cooking club for adults aged 65 years or more living in sheltered housing in socially deprived areas was included. At one year follow-up the intervention participants had increased the percentage of energy obtained from carbohydrates and had lower levels of vitamin D in their diet than the control participants. The intervention participants were more likely to perceive their diet as being healthier than it actually was. There was no evidence that the cooking club had any effect on knowledge, attitudes, physical health or any other dietary aspects measured.

The four remaining studies were reported as having considerable constraints that included difficulties in relation to recruitment of participants and drop-outs, so it was not possible to determine whether the outcome findings could be attributed to the cooking courses being evaluated.

Process evaluations (eight studies): One cluster randomised trial (304 participants, same as in outcome evaluations) reported that participants enjoyed the courses (largely due to social reasons) and appreciated learning from people of similar ages and levels of authority. A common barrier to participation was difficulty accessing the cooking ingredients. The findings from other studies included difficulties from limited facilities and lack of motivation among volunteers.

Cost information

Five studies reported the costs associated with the cooking courses.

Authors' conclusions

Evidence on the effects of adult home cooking courses in the UK was inconclusive due to a lack of high quality evaluations of these schemes.

CRD commentary

The review question and broad inclusion criteria were clearly defined. Relevant databases were searched and attempts were made to locate grey literature. The restricted inclusion of published studies meant that relevant studies may have been missed. Efforts were made to minimise reviewer error and bias throughout the review process. The narrative method method of synthesis seemed appropriate given the between-study differences shown in the study details presented.

The authors' conclusions reflect the paucity of high quality evidence and appear reliable.

Implications of the review for practice and research

Practice: The authors did not state any implications for practice.

Research: The authors suggested that rigorous evaluation of home cooking courses was required before roll out where possible. Such evaluations should be of a sufficient size and have robust designs. The authors also recommended that researchers consider allocating pre-existing community groups of participants to evaluation comparison arms and ensure that sufficient resources and pilot testing were incorporated within the evaluation recruitment stages. Further research was required to provide reliable data for use in cost-effectiveness analyses of courses.


UK Department of Health.

Bibliographic details

Rees R, Hinds K, Dickson K, O'Mara-Eves A, Thomas J. Communities that cook: a systematic review of the effectiveness and appropriateness of interventions to introduce adults to home cooking. London: University of London, Institute of Education, Social Science Research Unit, EPPI-Centre. EPPI Report; 2004. 2012.

Indexing Status

Subject indexing assigned by CRD


Food; Cultural Characteristics; Humans; Health Education; Cookery



Database entry date


Record Status

This is a critical abstract of a systematic review that meets the criteria for inclusion on DARE. Each critical abstract contains a brief summary of the review methods, results and conclusions followed by a detailed critical assessment on the reliability of the review and the conclusions drawn.

Copyright © 2014 University of York.
Bookshelf ID: NBK127560


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