University of Leeds

University of Bradford

Wakefield Council

You Are What You Ate

Project news

by Iona McCleery and Vicky Shearman

Using mortar and pestle to prepare herbs

Engaging teens in healthy eating: case study in the Museums Journal


You are what you ate has recently featured in the Museums Association website in a case study on museum practice.

Vicky Shearman, Senior Cultural Development Officer at Wakefield Council, and one of the project partners for You are what you ate, wrote about the work of the project in engaging with older young people. Facilitated by youth worker Jane Howroyd over a three year period, You are what you ate reached out to a wide range of groups of young people in the Wakefield area through a series of innovative sessions.

The article, published on 12 December 2014, highlights the main outcomes of this part of the project.

Vicky Shearman said:

‘We engaged with 13 to 19 year-olds through outreach to a range of youth clubs, from guides and scouts to those on the verge of exclusion from school and ‘detached youthwork’.

‘The young people were encouraged to make and eat food based on medieval recipes. Though their knowledge of nutrition was basic, we found that the experience of discussing food through history, rather than the usual healthy eating agenda, enabled them to think about their food choices in a different way.’

Project Leader, Dr Iona McCleery, said of this element of the project:

‘Monitoring of our activities showed that we were not engaging with many young people in the 13 to 19 age group: they are much less likely to go to museums or food/family entertainment festivals.

‘We had particularly targeted primary school children for much of the project but we felt that older children and young people were being left out of many cultural activities and are also neglected by healthy eating programmes. This can increase a sense of social exclusion amongst this age group.

‘The complexity of timetabling for older children meant that we were able to visit very few secondary schools over the four years of the project. So we decided to develop a specific workshop for youth clubs which would provide participatory, non-threatening activities in line with the rest of the project. Working with this age group can be more challenging but as the case study shows we had considerable success in maintaining engagement with several groups over some weeks.’

The key findings from these sessions can be seen in the case study written for the Museums Association and will be published on the You are what you ate website in the new year.

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