In today’s technologically driven schools, the idea of home economics classes, which were designed to arm kids with half a dozen easy-to-cook recipes, seems a little dated. And faced with busy academic schedules, schools have largely abandoned these lessons. But given the current epidemic of childhood obesity, is this really the smartest move? In a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), David Ludwig, MD, PhD, argues that instruction in basic food preparation and meal planning are essential for today’s kids, who can’t rely on their parents to teach them these skills.
(Read a related post from Thrive that asks whether it’s realistic to expect marketers to make changes on their own to how they market unhealthy foods to kids, or whether the government should get involved.)
Many parents never learned to cook and instead rely on restaurants, take-out food, frozen meals and packaged food as basic fare. Many children seldom experience what a true home-cooked meal taste like, much less what goes into preparing it. Work schedules and child extracurricular programs frequently preclude involving children in food shopping and preparation. The family dinner has become the exception rather than the rule.
A comprehensive curriculum to teach students about the scientific and practical aspects of food might include basic cooking techniques; caloric requirements; sources of food, from farm to table; budget principles; food safety; nutrient information, where to find it and how to use it; and effects of food on well-being and risk for chronic disease. This curriculum wold provide adolescents with, especially at the high school level, with the skills they nee to become confident in selecting handling and preparing food.
What do you think? Should home economics classes be reintroduced into our schools? If so, what specifically should kids be taught? Did you learn anything in school that helped you prepare healthful meals for your family?