Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Effect of Multicultural Cooking Classes on Cultural Competency of University Students

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Effect of Multicultural Cooking Classes on Cultural Competency of University Students

Article excerpt


Due to international migration, the United States population will be more racially and ethnically diverse by 2060 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Education in cultural competence is strongly recommended in health professional coursework to increase awareness of disparities in health care and understanding of diverse ethnic backgrounds (Fong & Tanaka, 2013; Miskin, Matthews, Wallace, & Fox, 2015). Globalization is important not only for health care professionals, but also for engineering, marketing, and other students who work with people from different cultural backgrounds and may be involved in international projects (De Mooij, 2013; Finelli et al., 2012).

Learning about cultural competency is a crucial component for all college students because having cultural acceptance and exposure will help with their future careers. College multicultural programs are associated with a variety of positive outcomes, including increased empathy, understanding, communication skills, and critical thinking skills (Dessel, 2010). However, university curricula and programs often lack components of cultural competency, which leads to misunderstandings and miscommunications with people from other cultural backgrounds (Hogan, 2012). Studies have shown that lack of culturally competent care from health professionals results in poor health outcomes (Goody & Drago, 2009; Long, 2012; Neander & Markle, 2005). Also, miscommunication and lack of understanding increase conflicts in the workplace (Hogan, 2012).

The university level offers additional opportunities to become culturally competent and focus on global understanding and citizenship on campus. One of these opportunities is participating in university-sponsored multicultural cooking classes. All cultures have unique ingredients and ways to prepare food, so culture can be defined by food (Anderson, 2014; Engler-Stringer, 2010). Food has central importance in social interactions and cultural events. Exploring cultural food helps to learn personal values and beliefs of different cultures (Sommer, Rush, & Ingene, 2011). In addition, people who have more cultural competency tend to accept a wider variety of foods (Kittier, Sucher, & Nelms, 2011), and dietary variety ensures adequate intake of nutrients. Furthermore, exploring new foods can increase fruit and vegetable consumption (Dazeley, Houston-Price, & Hill, 2012; Wardle, Herrera, Cooke, & Gibson, 2003) since one may discover a new produce and/or a new way of preparation that he or she enjoys.

Currently, only one study has examined whether participation in multicultural cooking classes affected changes in citizenship skills, an understanding of different cultures, and cooking skills among young people, but there was no control group and the questionnaire was not validated in this particular study (Gatenby, Donnelly, & Connell, 2011). The objectives of this study were 1) to examine if multicultural cooking classes impacted cultural competence among ethnically diverse college students and 2) to explore if these cooking classes affected dietary habits (as measured by fruit and vegetable consumption). The authors hypothesized that college students would have increased cultural competency and fruit and vegetable consumption after participating in the multicultural cooking classes.


Cooking Class

The Student Health Center conducted a new cooking class program, Cooking Healthy, Eating Well (CHEW), for students at an urban, multicultural university. This program was comprised of ten cooking classes (5 multicultural and 5 basic classes) and held during the fall 2015 school semester at the university. Each class was 75 minutes long, and the maximum number of students was 15 per class. Each student was able to participate in up to two classes. The multicultural cooking classes focused on multicultural cuisines, such as Japanese sushi rolls and Indian curry, from which participants were able to learn cultural backgrounds of menus and how to eat in traditional ways in different countries. …

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