The teaching of cooking skills in school should be compulsory, according to a report prepared for the Scottish government.
The research also raises concerns that many schoolchildren cannot identify common fruit and vegetables or where meat and eggs come from.
The Scottish Food Commission report states: “There is a requirement for education in schools to support informed choices about food production, and teaching of cooking skills should be compulsory.”
It recommends that Scotland’s Children and Young People's Food Policy should “include an obligation for schools to provide [food] education”.
The report, published by the government on Friday, also highlights “frequent reports of children not knowing very basic information about food, including identification of common fruits and vegetables, where meat, milk and eggs come from, and very basic nutrition”.
Food education 'could help tackle childhood obesity'
It raises concerns, too, about how food is disposed of, and recommends that public bodies, including schools, “should be required to report on amounts of food waste”.
The report states that “food culture in Scotland has become more detached from food production, and fast food is a dominant element”.
Lessons could be learned from approaches to tackling smoking and drinking, the authors advise, adding: “The best long-term approach to tackling overweight and obesity is prevention from childhood, and school education has a major role to play.”
However, the current picture is patchy. “For a variety of reasons, education about food and provision of cooking skills varies across Scotland,” the report says.
Last June, a Tes Scotland investigation revealed that schools were being rebuked by inspectors for serving deep-fried food too regularly, using “high volumes of processed meat” and serving baked goods for breakfast.
And in September, a charity tackling obesity said that new stricter nutritional guidelines for school meals did not go far enough, and called for schools to be told how many times a week they can serve pudding.