Food education in schools – shouldn’t it be essential?
Posted 12 July 2010 22:38
I am 31 years old and had public school education in England until I was 10, then moved to a private school until I was 16. In that time I had 1 year of ‘Home Economics’ classes where we made a few cakes and cookies, but I was never really taught about food, ingredients, calories, fat content, protein, organic vs non-organic, etc. However I was taught woodwork, art, Craft Design Technology and Latin (all of which I have never used since – and I even did Latin as a GCSE). Looking back, I find it strange that something as essential to every-day life was not included as part of my education.
If you ask most children in the UK which foods are bad, they will be able to tell you sweets, crisps, chips (fries), cakes, etc. But many will not know why.
In 2004, Jamie Oliver led a campaign (named Jamie’s School Dinners) which aimed to improve the quality of meals provided by schools and to improve the knowledge and education about food taught in schools.
The main points of the School Dinners campaign manifesto are:
- In schools: make cooking and life skills classes compulsory for all kids so they learn about food and good eating habits while they're young
- For teachers: recruit and train new cookery teachers, otherwise the new right that kids have to cookery lessons just isn’t going to happen
- For heads: empower heads to make every school a junk food free zone
- For parents: educate parents and help them to understand the basics of family cooking and responsible nutrition
- For dinner ladies: invest in dinner ladies with proper training and enough paid hours to cook their food with fresh ingredients
- Commit to a ten-year strategic plan and fund a long-term public campaign to get people back on to a proper diet and empower/persuade (and possibly scare, if needed) the public to make better choices. With obesity costing the NHS more than smoking, it seems logical that a similar campaign should be appropriate
You can download the full manifesto.
In the Jamie’s School Dinners television series, it was shocking to see that some children (and adults!) had never eaten salad before, some children only ever ate crisps and the school lunches and parent-packed lunchboxes were comprised of foods that would make the children obese and unhealthy. Watch these video clips (part 1 and part 2) to see some of the issues that were raised in the series.
Recently in a speech, Andrew Lansley CBE MP (Member of UK Parliament Secretary of State for Health) criticised the work that Jamie Oliver has performed as part of his School Dinners campaign, saying that some of the end results have actually been negative.
I wholly disagree with Andrew's views, as do other people such as Denis Campbell (health Correspondent for the Guardian.co.uk) and Raymond Blanc (chef). Other sources such as Tony Rutherford (Entertainment Editor for Huntingtonnews.net) and The Advisor (video) show that Jamie’s campaign strategy does work.
I agree with Jamie. I think that children should be taught where food comes from, how it is produced and how to eat healthily. Food education could easily be incorporated into lessons such as PE, Biology, chemistry, assembly and form time. Plus maybe there should be a few hours per term dedicated to it. Also I think that children should be given sports-people as role-models. Children like to follow sports on TV and they emulate their sporting heroes. They should understand that to be an athlete takes as much effort off the field/track as it does on it.
This type of education would allow children to be brought up with a basic knowledge of food, to know what is good and bad for them, encourage them to stay away from fast-food chains and to have greater pride in what they eat. In short, I think a greater education in food would bring about a deeper understanding and an improved food culture – something that is severely lacking in many places globally. Eventually this would result in less obesity and less ill-health. Or to look at it another way – a fitter, healthier, more educated society of people who take pride in themselves and what they put into their bodies.
What do you think about the current level of food education in schools? Is it good enough? How can it be improved? Let us know in the comments!