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Leith stressed the point at the Society of Food Hygiene & Technology’s annual lecture on 18 November. “It’s too late to completely reverse the junk food cycle, but we could make a serious start with children.”

School was meant to prepare you for all aspects of adult life and cookery should be an essential part of that preparation, she said. “The Government should pay for cookery and food studies just as it pays for maths and science.”

The state had to pick up the bill for diet-related ill-health and obesity, so it made sense for it to invest in education to help mitigate the problem, she argued.

Food and nutrition at A-Level

She welcomed the reintroduction of cookery to the secondary school syllabus in 2014 in the form of the GCSE in food preparation and nutrition. However, echoing Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy she said food and nutrition needed to be maintained at A-Level to keep it on students’ minds when they moved on to work or higher education.

In agreement with Dimbleby, Leith said more funds needed to be allocated to resources to improve the quality of learning and to pay for the raw ingredients for cooking classes. She explained that a minority of schools were devoting proper attention to teaching cookery because few had the facilities to do so. She pressed for more time dedicated to lessons, as too much was being spent in unpacking food children were required to bring in and in clearing up.

She called for more training for teachers of cookery and nutrition ‘of which there is a current appalling shortage’. Chefs who were fed up with the stress, pace and long hours in the restaurant sector were a good group to target to recruit school caterers and cookery teachers, Leith suggested.

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