Why Cooking in Schools

The decline in people’s ability to cook over the past generation has been broadcast far and wide. The British now eat more "ready meals" than the rest of Europe combined and it is no exaggeration to say that cooking is becoming a forgotten skill for most people under the age of 30.

Thanks to the tireless campaigning work of the Focus on Food campaign (1), Children's Food Campaign and many others, changes to the national curriculum are now set to take place from September 2014.

For the first time ever, practical cookery is to be made compulsory for children up to year 9. The Department of Education’s report recommended specifically that students in Key Stages 1 to 3 should "learn about food and, where possible, plan and prepare healthy, wholesome dishes".  It adds that pupils should have practical knowledge in horticulture "to cultivate plants ...for food". 

Campaigners have lobbied hard for this and our cause was taken up by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, the DfE's school food review team.  SFM was able to show the review team excellent cooking and growing projects in local schools to demonstrate the value of food education.  This is a great start to the School Food Plan and we are delighted that we have been able to play our part.

We believe that every child should be given the opportunity to learn cooking skills at school.

This is why:

  • Being able to cook means you have more control over what you are putting into your body. Britain is only second to America when it comes to an overweight population, but research shows that people who cook are generally healthier than those who don’t (1).
  • Children who cook are more likely to report that they like cooking “a lot” as well as showing increased willingness to try new foods. Learning how to cook at school also shows a transfer of benefits in the home, with children being more ready to help in the kitchen (2).
  • Children who attend schools with well developed food education programmes (cooking and growing) exhibit better knowledge about making healthy food choices (60% versus 36%), better attitudes about food (42% versus 19%) and improved eating habits (35% verus 16%) (3).
  • Let's Get Cooking (a network of over 5,000 school-based family cooking clubs) reports that nearly 60% of people taking part say they eat a healthier diet after being taught how to cook balanced meals (4). Over 9 out of 10 (92%) LGC club participants also report regularly using their new cooking skills at home (5).
  • Cooking is the cornerstone activity to eating together, and shared family meal times still rate as one of the best ways for families to connect – particularly in families with teenagers (6).

Everyone has their part to play in helping children develop a love of food and cooking.  At SFM we are honoured to work with a small but dedicated group of chefs through our Cooking Ideas and Kitchen Garden Ideas programmes, who give their time and ingredients for free to work with our member schools. Click here if your school would like to learn more about membership.

(1) The Focus on Food campaign; a short history of the Focus on Food Campaign
(2) Evaluation of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program; Key Findings of the Final Report October 2009, The University of Melbourne
(3) An Evaluation of the School Lunch Initiative: changing students’ knowledge, attitudes and behavior in relation to food: University of California at Berkeley September 2010
(4) Cooking Up An Obesity Solution; Lets Get Cooking December 2010  
(5) A Recipe For Healthier Communities; The Impact of Lets Get Cooking Oct 2007 to Sept 2011
(6) Family Day; a “CASA” Initiative from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University, NY, USA