New report champions inclusive food education

Cookery and food education is undervalued by schools, and food technology lessons put additional financial pressure on low-income families, according to Ingredients for Success, a new report launched last week.

Produced by the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University, the research surveyed more than 1,000 teachers of food education to explore the barriers to practical food education faced by pupils in secondary schools across the four nations.

Figures show 78% of teachers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland believe that cost is a barrier to pupils accessing food education, and most teachers believe that families should not be asked to contribute to the cost of food education. Teachers also said they have been making changes to how they teach Food Technology in light of the cost of living crisis, adapting recipes to make them more affordable.

Our Poverty Proofing© Team has contributed its expertise to the steering group overseeing this research. On Friday afternoon, we joined colleagues from Glasgow Caledonian University, The Food Teachers’ Centre and Child Poverty Action Group at the official report launch with Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food. We met students at Churchill Community College in North Tyneside, who wowed the MP with their cooking skills, making apple crumble, chocolate brownie and vegetable pizza, and demonstrating the difference it makes when the ingredients pupils need are readily available for all students.

Sharon discussed with students the importance of learning to make healthy, affordable meals, and shared her commitment to the importance of ensuring Food Technology lessons are fully funded, so students from low-income families aren’t worrying about the cost of ingredients or getting in trouble at school if they don’t bring the right things in.

The findings of this research echo the wider evidence Children North East has gathered through our Poverty Proofing© work in schools. The pressure which food technology purchases put on families is a repeated theme when we speak to pupils and parents. Our consultations have highlighted that many pupils, in particular those from low-income backgrounds, feel uncomfortable repeatedly asking their family to provide ingredients. For example, one Year 10 pupil reported, “If I’d have known how much it costs to do food tech, it would have affected my decision… it makes me not want to do the subject”, whilst another shared, “We buy lots of food stuff. I don’t think it’s fair”. The opportunity for stigma in food technology is also high, with many reporting a “walk of shame” to collect packages provided for those accessing pupil premium, or not having the right equipment from home. As one Year 8 pupil highlighted, “If you don’t have a container, you throw it in the bin“.

“Enjoying school and being able to fully participate in education is an essential part of growing up happy and healthy. All children should have the opportunity to make the most of food technology lessons, and learn vital life skills to be able to cook and eat healthy meals, without the cost of ingredients being an issue. Ingredients for Success is an important and comprehensive report which lays bare the practical and financial barriers many pupils and, indeed, staff face, in learning about food and nutrition. Within it are also solutions and a call to action to remove inequalities and give all children equality of provision, no matter their background”

Leigh Elliott, Chief Executive at Children North East


Read the Summary Report

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