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Connecting cooking fuel choice and wellbeing: MECS’ emerging collaboration with CookPad & Gallup

10th February 2023

By Jacob Fodio Todd, Nigel Scott & Jon Leary

A team of MECS researchers were selected as one of the four winners of the Gallup and Cookpad World Cooking Index Research Contest, which offers MECS researchers access to vast Cookpad and Gallup databases.

In January last year, our colleague Mourine Cheriyuot forwarded us notice of the World Cooking Index competition. Mourine knows all about the MECS programme’s long-standing interest in discovering more about how and what people cook at home, having collaborated on developing early cooking diary trials and eCookbooks in Kenya with the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS). In 2018 (around the same time the MECS programme was getting started), Gallup and Cookpad partnered to begin gathering data on cooking habits, and subsequently analyse it in order to generate insights into global cooking habits.

The Gallup World Poll surveys citizens from countries across the world, asking a vast array of questions relating to topics such as health, religion and well-being to gain insight into important worldwide issues. Through their collaboration with Cookpad, an online recipe sharing service founded in Japan, they have broadened the scope of their survey to better understand home cooking trends. Increasingly, they seek to collaborate with researchers or organisations that offer innovative ways of using their data, through initiatives such as the World Cooking Index research ideas competition.

Image 1. In 2018, Cookpad and Gallup partnered to provide insight into home cooking habits. Image credit: Gallup

As a research programme, we jumped at the chance to access a worldwide dataset on home cooking behaviours, so we quickly convened a team to produce a proposal for the contest. We came up with an idea to test several hypotheses on possible links between the use of polluting fuels for home cooking, and a variety of quality-of-life indictors. Our proposal suggests using a multi-stage comparative analysis of Gallup’s global dataset in combination with the cooking fuels and technologies dataset published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Health Observatory. This will enable us to test our hypotheses around the link between use of polluting fuels for home cooking, and overall satisfaction with the home cooking experience (represented by a range of quality-of-life variables and indices).

We were delighted that our proposal was selected as one of the four winners of the Gallup and Cookpad World Cooking Index 2022 competition in May. In the coming months, we look forward to testing hypotheses using the data that Gallup and Cookpad have shared with us and sharing our findings.

Image 2. MECS eCookbooks

We are also excited to form a relationship with Cookpad, a technology company that through its online platform compiles original user-created recipes to learn and share information about home cooking across the world. For several years now we have gathered information about everyday cooking habits and behaviour and built up a database of eRecipes (recipes that show the compatibility between modern energy-efficient appliances and popular local foods). Alongside other data generated by MECS through cooking diaries, culinary typologies, and other research studies, eRecipes form the core of part of a series of eCookbooks, which explore cooking with modern energy. We have found in many cases that electric cooking is desirable and compatible with many dishes of the diverse cuisines studied in MECS priority countries across Africa and Asia and can also be significantly cheaper than using traditional polluting fuels. A wealth of studies, by MECS and colleagues, now demonstrate that electric cooking in the Global South is already a viable, cost-effective and attractive way of cooking, as well as providing positive health and environmental outcomes.

We have gained a good understanding of how people cook, and the energy and costs associated with cooking using different fuels. Now we look forward to investigating the links between choice of cooking fuels and wellbeing, which may show how switching to modern, clean cooking fuels can help “make everyday cooking fun”, which is Cookpad’s mission.

Featured Image: MECS eCookbooks

Opportunity: Women in Modern Energy Cooking (WMEC) initiative launched