Steven Gerrard has teamed up with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to call on the Government to tackle
the obesity crisis through cookery education in schools.
The school meals champion and the Liverpool
midfielder have joined forces with leading figures in health and education as signatories to a
letter to the prime minister, suggesting changes to the introduction of a minimum 24 hours'
practical cooking skills and food education for all pupils aged four to
14. The letter
says the "pride" of hosting the Olympic Games has been "tainted by the shameful fact that
Britain is the fattest nation in Europe".
Professor David Haslam, chair of the
National Obesity Forum, who also signed the letter, said: "The 2012 Olympics provide a unique
opportunity to improve the nation's health and reduce the burden of
obesity."However, sitting in front of the television,
cheering our elite athletes on, while eating crisps and chocolates, drinking sugar-sweetened
beverages is entirely counter-productive."
Using the National Curriculum to teach
children how to prepare nutritious meals for themselves and their families would be an important
step in tackling the rising obesity epidemic, the campaigners argue.Without these skills, people are less likely to exercise meaningful control over
their diet and food intake, and tend to rely on pre-prepared or take-away foods, the letter
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College
of General Practitioners, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers,
and Professor Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
are among the signatories.
As well as urging the introduction of
compulsory cookery classes, they highlight the need for more sporting role models to promote the
benefits of a healthy lifestyle to children.They write: "As a
group of charities and leading professionals in the field of medicine, food, sport, education and
cookery, we firmly believe that the impact of obesity on our health is a very serious
Oliver has been a campaigner for healthier
school food since 2005, while Gerrard is ambassador for the Get Up, Get Moving programme designed
to increase awareness of physical activity and healthy eating.
Dr Gerada said she had had a number of
patients who have never, ever cooked a meal, adding: "The closest they may ever get to cooking a
meal is putting something in the microwave.
"I think it is important that we put cookery
back into schools so that at least children can see how much sugar goes into an average cake or how
much fat goes into a pastry so they can make choices about what they're going to
Prof Stephenson said: "The UK now has the
highest rate of obesity in Europe, with one in three children overweight or obese by the age of
nine. "We need to
act now but we will not win this fight alone. Parents, schools, healthcare professionals and the
Government must take a united approach in order to combat this obesity crisis."
The Department for Education said it was
committed to tackling obesity and a review of the NationalCurriculum was currently under
way. "We know that a
healthy attitude towards food, developed early, is critical to the health, well-being and good
educational attainment of young people," it said. "That's why we've asked the School
Food Trust to use their expertise and draw up early years nutritional guidance and why maintained
schools must abide by the national minimum standards for nutrition."