Flavour School research project


Dr. Nick Wilkinson (Flavour School co-founder and trustee) has started work at the University of Leeds (UK), on a two-year outcomes assessment of the Flavour School programme. Nick has teamed up with Dr. Charlotte Evans (Leeds School of Food Science and Nutrition), an expert in randomised control trials of food and diet interventions, Prof. Marion Hetherington (Leeds School of Psychology), an expert in behavioural analysis of eating behaviour in children, and external advisor Dr. Srimathi Kannan (Uni. Michigan, USA), who is pioneering sophisticated behavioural analysis of sensory food education outcomes in the USA.

Nick will conduct randomised control trials (the gold standard methodology for clinical trials) to understand how Flavour School affects 4-7 year-olds’ willingness to taste foods, and enjoyment and engagement in exploring foods and flavours.

Nick’s studies will focus on testing outcomes in natural, group-based taste exploration activities, and will video-record these activities to enable detailed analysis of behaviour. As well as how many items children taste, the team will look at things like facial expressions (e.g. how much the children smile during tasting activities), gestures, and vocabulary variety, to assess the extent of children’s engagement in exploring food. This kind of detailed analysis is time-consuming, so Nick will also work on software tools to help automate the analysis.

The team plan to make all their methods and tools open source, so that other researchers in the field can easily use the tools they develop. These studies will provide some of the most detailed and thorough examinations of sensory food education outcomes to date.

The research is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 science programme (Marie S Curie Actions).