Significant differences have been noted between the present-day field of family and consumer science and its foundational discipline of home economics. Traditional home economics courses were a mandatory component for girls in many primary and secondary schools of the early 1900s, interactively teaching skills such as cooking, nutrition, and caretaking. Political turmoil arising during the mid-20th century and the residual social aftershock warranted a transformation of the field of home economics into its present-day derivation: family and consumer science. This conversion paralleled notable changes in Americans’ sentiment and behaviors toward food preparation and eating. Traditional home cooking took a backseat to convenience foods and eating out, which experts blame in part for the present rates of overweight and obesity and overall decline in American diet quality. The temporal correlation between the evolution of home economics and the demise in Americans’ nutritional health raises questions regarding a potential relationship between the two. This article sheds light on the influential loss of Americans’ competence in traditional home economics course content as well as its implications for present-day and future society.
Old “home-eccie” solutions may help remedy America’s cooking crisis!
Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD, is assistant professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University, where she teaches community nutrition and nutritional assessment courses and conducts experiential and cooking-based nutrition research.
Amanda Simons, BA, is a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University with a passion for food psychology and community nutrition.
This project was supported by National Research Initiative Grant 2007-05062 from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
Correspondence: Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, PhD, RD, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 234 Gifford Bldg, Campus Delivery 1571, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523 (Leslie.Cunningham-Sabo@Colostate.Edu).