Spiky-haired celebrity chef Gary Rhodes is a man with a mission. Mr Rhodes, who is supporting The TES Get Active campaign said: "I do not want to turn every child into a chef, but I do want compulsory cooking lessons for seven to 11-year-olds each week. They should spend one-and-a-half to two hours a week learning about food."
He is promoting the Focus on Food initiative. Under the scheme two trucks, funded by Waitrose and the Food Standards Agency, complete with kitchens and trained cookery teachers, roll into school playgrounds and give children crash courses in cooking.
Mr Rhodes said: "When I go into some schools I ask, 'Who is looking forward to cooking?' and I am met with grim faces. But as soon as they get involved and see it coming out of the oven they change their appreciation of food.
They realise what real flavours are and how good fresh ingredients are.
"This is why I have been screaming, along with Focus on Food, for full-time cooking in the curriculum. We have knocked on the door of 10 Downing Street and presented a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures on it ."
Anita Cormac, Focus on Food's director, said: "Food education is in the curriculum but it does not necessarily involve cooking, and it is optional in design and technology in secondary."
Any school can bid to take part in the Focus on Food programme. It is free and the cooking lessons can dovetail with any part of the curriculum. Ms Cormac said: "We can tie it in with the history curriculum, for instance.
If they are looking at how Victorians lived we might make dishes that have decorative pineapple slices on, because the Victorians used to grow pineapples in their grand houses."
Young people will be encouraged to debate food issues in schools across the UK during Focus on Food week, between June 7-11 in Scotland, and June 21-25 in the rest of Britain.
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