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Cookpad Explores How Home Cooking Nourishes Lives
Gallup Blog

Cookpad Explores How Home Cooking Nourishes Lives

Can a home-cooked meal change people's lives? Every year since 2018, Cookpad, in partnership with Gallup, has been trying to answer that question by studying home cooking trends worldwide.

Cookpad's latest report, A Global Analysis of Cooking Around the World, Year 3, explored the effect that COVID-19 and the global lockdown had on home cooking and eating behaviors around the world -- and how this intersected with people's lives.

Who's Cooking During a Pandemic?

The results from the 2020 study revealed that people cooked slightly fewer meals each week during the first year of the pandemic than they did the year before -- averaging 6.7 meals in 2020 vs. 6.9 in 2019.

However, this decline was almost entirely attributable to a drop in cooking in China, where people reported cooking two fewer meals each week. Without China, the global average would have increased slightly from 6.5 in 2019 to 6.8.

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The global decrease in cooking (and eating home-cooked meals) was not consistent across different parts of the world. Northern America, Latin America and Europe saw the average number of meals cooked at home rise significantly in 2020. Increases were far more modest in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa.

Asia was the only region where home cooking declined -- dropping from 7.3 meals cooked at home each week in 2019 to 6.7 meals in 2020. Again, falling numbers in China explain most of the change in the region. Without China, the average for Asia would have been 7.0 meals per week in 2020, up from 6.7 in 2019.

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In line with previous studies, women continued to cook the most at home in 2020 -- although they cooked a little less than usual, and men cooked slightly more. Women, on average, cooked 9.1 meals per week in 2020 versus 9.2 in 2019. Men, on the other hand, cooked 4.5 meals per week in 2020 versus 4.4 per week the previous year.

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But the gap between the frequencies with which women and men cook remains significant -- women cook twice as many meals per week, although they eat a similar number of home-cooked meals. However, the study also found an increase in household members cooking meals for women -- whether a spouse, a family member or a non-family member.

Both men and women who lost their job because of the pandemic in 2020 cooked more, resulting in approximately one more meal cooked per week than the average. But only women cooked substantially more if they worked fewer hours or were making less money because of the pandemic.

How Does Home Cooking Affect People's Lives?

The results from this study are important -- particularly in the context of the current global pandemic -- because how much time people spend cooking, what resources they have and use to do so, and with whom they share a meal are all windows into people's lives. Cooking is also a reflection of the health, consumer spending and carbon footprint of a country's citizens. This, in turn, has consequences for the world's economy and affects global food supply chains.

But even though this study sheds some light on the important relationship between home cooking and people's lives, more research is needed to fully understand how it affects lives everywhere. To further this effort, Cookpad opened a contest to academics -- offering access to Cookpad and Gallup data if they submitted a winning research idea.

Cookpad received proposals from all around the world. The winning ideas covered diverse topics, including wellbeing, clean energy, nutrition and the environmental impact, and ultra-processed foods.

The winners:

Fiona Lavelle, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Institute for Global Food Security, Queen's University Belfast

Research idea: An exploration of the relationships between meal preparation, consumption, food insecurity and wellbeing pre and during the COVID-19 pandemic: A global perspective.

Pan He, Lecturer at Cardiff University

Research idea: Exploring the role of home cooking in global food-environment-health nexus

Miguel Ruiz-Canela, Professor at the University of Navarra

Research idea: Households' environment as determinant of home cooking in families with children

Jon Leary, Senior Researcher, Gamos Ltd., Kenya/United Kingdom and colleagues from the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS)

Research idea: Clean cooking or electricity access: where should global investment in wellbeing focus?

Cookpad and Gallup look forward to seeing the research these academics create and will provide an update on what they find.

Author(s)

Julie Ray is a writer and editor at Gallup.


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