LONDON (AFP) — Cooking lessons will be made compulsory for English teenagers from the start of the next academic year as part of a battle to cut spiralling levels of obesity, the government announced Tuesday.
Boys and girls aged between 11 and 14 will have to attend the classes from September and will learn to cook eight classic healthy British favourites, including roast chicken and shepherd's pie.
Education Secretary Ed Balls, who made the announcement, told the Daily Mirror newspaper: "Teaching kids to cook healthy meals is an important way schools can help produce healthy adults."
"My mum was passionate about all this and bought me my first Delia Smith book," he said, referring to a popular television chef.
Balls, who has asked the public to suggest other dishes pupils could be taught to cook, told BBC radio that the nation would have "real problems" with obesity in the coming years unless the issue was tackled.
The move was welcomed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has campaigned for better food in schools over several years.
He told the Mirror: "It's of the utmost importance that all kids learn to cook good food from scratch and shop well. I will be fully supportive."
Some 85 percent of schools already offer food technology classes. The remaining 15 percent will be given until 2011 before they have to teach cookery to give them time to build kitchens for pupils and recruit teachers.
Balls is due to launch a new government strategy for tackling obesity alongside Health Secretary Alan Johnson on Wednesday.
According to a government-commissioned study last year, half of all Britons will be obese in 25 years if current trends are not halted.
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