I don’t know much about food.
I realised this quite recently, when it hit that in a year or so I’ll be living away from home, with a tiny budget and almost non-existent culinary skills. Determined to be prepared for adulthood, since then I’ve been on a crash course, learning by trial-and-error and online tutorials how to put together basic meals. I’ve discovered that cooking can be incredibly rewarding; I’ve started to appreciate the value and cost of food; and I’m eating healthier now I’m considering what goes into my meals. But it’s made me think – why have I got so far knowing so little? It comes down to education.
In school, the food education I had was useless to me. It was ‘Food Technology’, a term or two of once-weekly lessons that seemed to be preparing us to become restaurant chefs or mass food manufacturers. It’s all very well teaching us about batch production and how to design the perfect sandwich: but I can’t help feeling it would be more useful to know how to cook rice, how to make a pasta sauce or what to cream, poach, saute, simmer or parboil actually means.
15th May is Food Revolution Day, and this year’s campaign centers around getting compulsory, practical food education in schools. This is exactly the kind of reform our education system needs.
The priorities within the UK curriculum are all wrong. England’s children are some of the most tested in the world, and the system prioritises exam results over mental wellbeing and useful life skills. For instance, as well as the deficiencies in food education, political education is poor, meaning many young people are left confused and disillusioned when it comes to voting. Sex education is basic and non-inclusive, providing teenagers with little knowledge or confidence and putting them at risk. Furthermore, this year, Childline experienced a 200% increase in calls from children suffering with exam stress.
This isn’t right.
Education should empower young people and provide us with the skills and confidence we need in the adult world. Instead, it pushes us to our limits and wrecks our mental health, before forcing us into adulthood without even checking we know how to cook for ourselves.
With obesity rising and incomes falling, it is more important than ever to equip children with these invaluable life skills so they can cook nutritious meals at an affordable price. Sign and share Jamie Oliver’s petition, calling on the G20 governments to do something about it.