The BBC reports the latest move by Britain’s Labour Government to address one of its social problems, making cookery classes compulsory for 11-14 year olds. This is intended to tackle obesity amongst young people and, to ensure everyone participates, poorer pupils will have ingredients subsidised by a Government grant of £2.5 million per year.
A wonderful piece of spin politics! Cookery equals a good thing; obesity equals a bad thing; helping poor pupils equals a good thing. A statement by the Government and a small sum of money and they can declare that they are tackling obesity amongst young people.
How many 11-14 year olds cook for themselves or for their families? If you were serious about addressing the decisions about the food young people bought and the way they cooked, you would surely leave it until they were 16-18, when it would be freshest in their memories after leaving school? And who is obese? The worst patterns of nutrition and the highest levels of obesity are amongst the lowest socio-economic groups, due in part, if not mainly, to the fact that fattening foodstuffs are easily prepared and often cheap. And how far will the money go? There are statistics available on how many 11-14 year olds there are in Britain, but let’s say that the three year age spread covers two million young people, and let’s say that 10% of those would be qualified to have their ingredients subsidized, that would be 200,000. £2.5 million distributed amongst 200,000 pupils would be £12.50 a head, and that’s before administration costs are taken out. On such figures, the subsidy would work out at about £1 a week per pupil, what would you buy for that?
The exercise in spin does nothing to address the problems of a society where people buy bad stuff because the advertisements encourage a culture where bad stuff is considered ‘cool’. It does nothing to change the attitudes of parents whose shopping and cooking are producing obese children. It does nothing to tell people that they must take their own decisions, that they are grown ups now and that they must stand on their own feet.
Can you imagine the outcry if the minister stood up and said that people should be responsible?