The government has announced that primary and secondary school teachers will be required to teach their pupils about cooking in future.
It comes after several experts demanded that pupils be educated more thoroughly about food and cooking in order to tackle a mounting dietary crisis.'Averting a Recipe for Disaster
Last week, baby food manufacturer Ella's Kitchen published a report entitled 'Averting a Recipe for Disaster', which warned of the need to address the twin threats of obesity and malnourishment.
The report cited official figures indicating that the number of children who had no fruit or vegetables in their diet rose by 33 per cent between 2009 and 2010, while the amount of fruit and vegetables purchased by the UK's poorest households fell by 25 per cent in this time.
Moreover, 70 per cent of primary school teachers surveyed agreed that cooking and food education should be introduced as a compulsory part of the curriculum, with 88 per cent also concurring that poor nutrition contributed to children's negative behaviour.Britain stuck in 'vicious circle' over dietary habits
Following the publication of this report, Ella's Kitchen's founder Paul Lindley was one of a group of 11 leading figures who wrote to the Daily Telegraph calling for a cross-party campaign to improve eating habits.
Its signatories, who also included chef and restaurateur Tom Aikens and National Obesity Forum chairman Professor David Haslam, advocated that all major parties should commit to a 25-year plan to improve nutrition among under-fives.
Their letter warned that the £6 billion that the NHS currently spends on diet-related diseases could rapidly increase as a result of primary school age children having not learned enough about food and cooking.
Mr Lindley explained that, as cooking was no longer compulsory in schools any more, young people were growing up without required knowledge about food that they could then pass onto their own children.
He asserted: "We are becoming trapped in this vicious circle that leads to people making the wrong choices about food which inevitably results in malnutrition at one end of the scale and obesity at the other."Cooking to be compulsory in schools
It would appear that the government shares such concerns, for it has indeed proposed in its draft National Curriculum that cookery become a compulsory part of education between key stages one and three as of September 2014.
Under these proposals, children will be taught between the ages of five and seven the basic principles of balanced eating and where food comes from, as well as being encouraged to develop an interest in cooking.
From the ages of seven to 11, pupils will then be educated about the major components of a balanced diet and how ingredients can be combined to prepare healthy meals and will learn basic cooking techniques.
This education about nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet will continue in secondary schools, where pupils aged 11 to 14 will be taught how to cook a wide range of savoury meals.
A Department for Education spokesman told the Telegraph: "Given the obesity issues that face our children today, it is vital that they know as much as possible about healthy eating and what constitutes a balanced diet.
"It's also important that they can develop an interest and understanding of good food. By bringing this into the curriculum, we want to encourage children to develop a love of food and cooking that will stay with them as they grow up."'A hugely positive development'
This news was unsurprisingly welcomed by Mr Lindley, who described it as "a hugely positive development in the mission to improve our children's relationship with food".
Furthermore, this move received the backing of Libby Grundy, director of Food For Life Partnership, a national programme working with schools to teach them about healthy eating.
Ms Grundy re-echoed Mr Lindley's beliefs, arguing that the key to improving children's health was to teach them from an early age how to cook meals for themselves.
She added that at schools where children already receive cookery lessons, pupils often go home and teach their parents about what they have learnt, with 45 per cent of parents saying their families now ate more healthily as a result.
Posted by Alan Douglas