All children should be taught to cook in schools, according to the head of the Women’s Institute.Ruth Bond, the head of the 200,000-plus body, said that schools had a duty to teach all children how to cook to prepare them for adult living. Ministers are currently deciding whether to require schools to increase cooking teaching in classrooms.
Mrs Bond said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that it would be “an excellent thing” if cooking was on the national curriculum.
The WI – the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK with more than 208,000 members in 6,500 branches – has launched a food security campaign to encourage people to think about the amount of food they throw away.
Britain threw away 15 million tonnes of food every year and ministers are keen for people to do more to use up what they have got.
Mrs Bond said that part of the problem was that children were not being taught about food waste in the classroom, which meant too much was being binned at home.
She said: “If you do home economics, you probably get a bit of it, but generally speaking how to cook is not taught widely. I think that is where a lot of it has fallen down.
“I think it would be an excellent thing if it was brought back into schools but, of course, so many schools do not have the facilities. The way you live depends a lot on how you eat and being able to cook your own food is a great bonus.”
The lack of any cooking lessons at school – combined with longer working hours for parents – meant that many children were existing on a diet of ready meals.
More parents should cook with their children at home, she said, to make up for the gaps in their knowledge from schools.
She said: “I have been fortunate to have had a mother who taught the subject so that is how I learned.
“If it’s there in the school curriculum I think it is a very good thing and it is a pity that it is not there. The WI says we really ought to have food teaching in schools. We run courses in our college in Oxford for cooking with grandma, or cooking with mum. Children love to cook.”
Mrs Bond said the WI runs regular home cooking courses for young mothers and fathers so they can plan meals at home.
People should be able to make a “Three course meal with leftovers”, she said.
She added: “It is a case of planning what you are going to eat, make your list, and look in your cupboard to see if there is anything that would do.”
Mrs Bond said that people should think creatively and use up what is in their fridges when following recipes set by celebrity chefs.
She continued: “All these fancy recipes are wonderful but you don’t have to use exactly what the recipe says, use something that you have got.”
Mrs Bond also said that people should not be too obsessed by best before dates on food, particularly if the food had not gone moldy.
She said: “I am not saying ignore them but use your common sense. They are there for a reason. When it comes to milk and dairy you have to be very careful, but a lot of things that do have a much longer life than is written on a packet.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Decisions on the subjects to be included in the secondary National Curriculum will be announced in due course, but nothing will prevent schools from teaching practical cookery.
“We know that a healthy attitude towards food, developed early, is critical to the health and well-being of young people. We are currently looking at the role food and cooking plays in schools and how this can help children develop an understanding of food and nutrition.”
Last month Food and Fisheries secretary Owen Paterson blamed supermarkets for insisting that farmers only supplied “perfect” fruit and vegetables.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “There is this cult of perfection. It is ridiculous to throw ugly fruit and vegetables away. The supermarkets can do something about that.
“I think these high profile chefs can also do something about it. I was talking to someone the other day who published cook books. Cookbooks in the 1970s and 1980s always have had chapters on using up scraps and leftovers. But this stopped in the 1990s.
“That is a little tiny area where you can change culture. Lots of food can be rehashed together and it is perfectly good.”
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