My mum is from a generation where home economics was taught at school. To this day, she maintains that learning how to cook and balance her diet have been amongst the most useful skills she has used throughout her life.
In the UK, sometime in the 80s school policy changed and out went home economics. The results have been devastating for the nation’s health as people have been relying more and more on processed food. Diet-related diseases such as obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease are the plague of this generation.
My mum was a busy woman. She had a full time job, sometimes working shifts and had no extra help with the housework. Yet she found the time to cook all our meals from scratch. There was a lot of batch cooking with the freezer always full and the slow cooker working overtime. She made jam, canned Summer and Autumn vegetables for the Winter. To this day, processed food is not part of her vocabulary. I am lucky because she involved me in the kitchen from a very young age, passing on her skills. Today I try to do the same for my kids.
Both my children have some basic food education at their primary school. My 5-year old is currently quite involved with her “balanced diet” and enjoys sharing what she has learned. I have also witnessed first hand how enthusiastic children are during practical cooking activities even if they have never cooked before.
There is of course the argument that cooking should be taught at home instead of school. Unfortunately, for many children around the world, their parents do not know how to cook. In fact, this generation is now the third one that won’t know how to cook.
This is why initiatives such as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day are so important. The campaign aims to reconnect children and families with food. This year’s focus is a massive worlwide petition on Change.org to introduce compulsory food education in schools. So far it has gathered over 1 million signatures. I have signed it and so should you.
“My wish is to create a strong sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” Jamie Oliver
Why not get your school to get involved with Food Revolution Day? The website has some handy school resources for download.
Today the Food Revolution Day bus is travelling through London calling on everyone to get involved with the campaign and sign the petition. Then this afternoon 3.30pm, you can also join in on Twitter with Jamie Oliver’s Live Twittercast.
Work, commute, school, errands, after school activities, playdates . . our busy lifestyle has become time poor. Cooking is often seen as a chore, meals are something that need to be rustled up. Getting the kids involved can seem a gargantuan task.
Yet it is really important to make time for it also at home and yes, it can be a lot of fun. As with many things in life, there is great satisfaction in making something yourself. Kids are no different. They are far more likely to eat something they have prepared even if some of the ingredients would otherwise alienate them.
Here are 10 favourites dishes my children love getting involved with:
- Porridge – here is a healthy breakfast year round, little ones enjoy measuring ingredients and stirring the pan.
- Pizzas – my kids help rolling out the dough. Then I put out toppings and they come up with their own combinations. This works also brilliantly for playdates, birthday parties or casual dinners with friends.
- Salads – my children love using salad spinners. I also get them (under supervision) to slice out some vegetables to add on.
- Stir-fries – this is my quick dinner option. My daughter enjoys peeling and slicing the vegetables.
- Pancakes – all hands are on deck on pancake days. Fillings get chopped and my son gets involved with the flipping.
- Sandwiches / Wraps – recipes like this Squash It Sandwich are ideal for youngsters.
- Smoothies – since making smoothies at school my 8-year old has been very keen on blending his own concoctions for breakfast or snack time.
- Baking – measuring and mixing ingredients is always fun especially when they know they can lick the bowl at the end.
- Cookies / Fairy Cakes – some dough, bunch cookie cutters, icing and sprinkles here is a rainy afternoon sorted.
- Pasta – this is a little bit more involved. Making pasta from scratch is more of a week end project but one that fascinates my children.
I would love to hear about your local school food initiatives or the favourite food you enjoy cooking with your little ones. Please share them in the comments box below.
Let’s end this post with a little bit of rap from Jamie Oliver joined by Ed Sheeran, Hugh Jackman, Paul McCartney, Jamie Cullum, Aleesha Dixon and Professor Green. Happy Food Revolution Day!