Submitted to: Journal of the American Medical Association
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2010
Publication Date: 5/12/2010
Citation: Lichtenstein, A.H., Ludwig, D.S. 2010. Bring back home economics education. Journal of the American Medical Association. 303(18):1857-1858. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Home economics, otherwise known as domestic education, was a fixture in secondary schools through the 1960’s, at least for girls. It’s an idea that now seems quaint, but in the midst of a pediatric obesity epidemic and concerns about the poor diet quality of adolescents in the US, instruction in basic food preparation and meal planning skills need to be part of any long-term solution. Pervasive in our society is the prevailing view that cooking takes too much time or skill, and that nutritious food does not taste good. To address these myths, we envision the development of an integrated curriculum that teaches students about the scientific and practical aspects of food. This would include basic cooking techniques; caloric requirements; sources of food, from farm to table; budget principles; food safety; nutrient information, where to find it and how to use it; and effects of food on well being and risk for chronic disease. This curriculum would provide adolescents with the skills they need to become confident in selecting, handling, and preparing food. Obesity presently costs society over $100 billion annually in increased health care expenditures and lost worker productivity. The personal and economic toll of this epidemic will only increase, as this generation of adolescents develops weight related complications like type 2 diabetes earlier in life than ever before. From this perspective, providing a mandatory cooking curriculum to students throughout the country may be among the best investments society could make.