Duncan Barkes on food education

BEFORE leaving primary school, every child should visit a farm and learn that the animals they see there become food on their plates.

If you think such a trip isn’t necessary, think again – the British Nutrition Foundation recently found that a quarter of primary school children believe that fish fingers come from chicken or pigs. It is disgraceful that many children have no understanding of the origins of what’s on their dinner plates. You would have thought the word ‘fish’ would have provided a stonking clue, but no – one in four still think they come from something with feathers or with a snout.

I have also encountered children that have no idea where their burgers or chicken nuggets come from.

I used to take the view that certain things in life should be taught to children by their parents and it should not be the job of the state.

Clearly, parents can’t always be relied upon.

We either have mums and dads serving up food to their children without troubling to explain what it is or where it came from, or else – more alarmingly – they do not know themselves.

I remember watching one of the River Cottage programmes, with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, on telly. He was trying to help adults have greater understanding about the creation of food.

One particular lady was mortified when Hugh told her that the chicken she had become attached to would have to be killed for her dinner. She was in bits.

Then there was Marcus, a lamb raised by pupils at a school in Kent.

As part of a rather brilliant project designed to teach children about food, he was raised and then slaughtered, with the meat featuring as the star prize in a raffle.

Parents were outraged, some claiming that their children were traumatised.

Others threatened legal action. Following threats from some locals to attack the school, the police got involved. I bet many of those who made threats still enjoy roast lamb.

And food education is vital if we are ever to combat the rising obesity crisis. If kids don’t know that burgers come from cows then they are unlikely to be aware of trans fats, empty calories and the poor nutritional values of most processed foods.

A trip to a farm accompanied by a narrative detailing the journey from pasture to slaughterhouse will leave children in no doubt as to the origin of the bacon in their butties.

If parents can’t or won’t, then it’s the only way children will ever realise that chops don’t grow on trees.

• Agree or disagree with columnist Duncan’s comments? Email your views to letters@worthingherald.co.uk, letters@shorehamherald.co.uk or letters@littlehamptongazette.co.uk, or comment below.