I do love Sunday – ‘Politics Day’ on the TV. Programme after programme designed to have me shouting at the screen and promoting discussion and blogs for the following week. Lovely.
So, what is today’s main topic? Sugar or rather, Sugar Tax. Everyone seems to be talking about the amount of sugar we are all eating, tooth decay, the rise in incidences of diabetes, obesity and what we, and the Government, need to do about it.
Now, I am not a dietician or a medical expert or a celebrity chef or a dentist. I am not a politician whose ministerial brief is to propose policies relating to legislation on health. I am not a specialist who can talk knowledgeably about the science relating to the connection between eating too much sugar and being seriously overweight. I am just an ordinary middle-aged mother with no specialist knowledge whatsoever. What I do have, however, is a good, secondary school education and a degree of common sense but, one thing my basic ‘O’ level in biology and a lifetime of experience have taught me, is that sugar does not, in itself, contain many calories. A quick Google question reveals that a teaspoon full of sugar actually only contains a whole 16 calories. Not many at all. As far as I am aware, therefore, whilst too much sugar can lead to tooth decay and diabetes, on its own, it does not make you overweight.
I believe, along with many, that where we have gone wrong in this country is in stopping teaching our children and young people how to cook. How to cook proper, family meals. Not fancy stuff but real food that people want to eat every day. When I was at school, back in the dark ages, we had a proper ‘Domestic Science’ lab in our science block with cookers and sinks and fridges and preparation benches. Every week when I was in the equivalent of years 7 and 9 there would be a day when we would all trot along to school with a bag full of the ingredients our teacher had told us we would need and, that evening, thirty families in the Chester area would all eat the same thing. Whatever it was we, their children, had produced. Fast forward twenty five years to when my own children were in school and there was no domestic science, no learning how to cook and no experimental family meals. The cookers, fridges and bags of ingredients were no more.
And that, in my view, is where the problem, and one of the solutions, lie. Equip schools with kitchens where children can learn the practical skills they will need to feed themselves, and their families, food that tastes good, does them good and does not break the bank, cause waistlines to expand and teeth to fall out. Teach our children and young people, male and female, how to cook. Teach them what vegetables are, what to do with a portion of fish or meat to make it palatable and safe to eat, how, as my own mother would have said, to boil an egg. Every day we see adverts on our TV’s for special food boxes containing everything we need to make a meal, complete with recipes but is this what we want? Surely it would be better to teach our children how to go shopping and buy everything they need for a meal by themselves. How to follow a recipe, how to peel a carrot, how to mash a potato properly. We learnt what to do, many of our children didn’t. It’s all very well and good knowing how to speak several languages, deal with algebraic equations and write a well composed CV or essay but if young people don’t also learn how to feed themselves properly what does the future hold?
So, do we need a ‘Sugar Tax’ in this country? Well, in my view, no. Rather than imposing yet another tax on what we buy, let’s try teaching our children and grandchildren what to do with the food we all need to eat so we don’t rot our teeth, develop diabetes or become obese. Deal with the real problem, the lack of practical skills being taught in our schools rather than continue with the obsession our politicians seem to have for tax, tax tax. We don’t need to try and generate money to deal with the results of our inaction, we need to put more funding in to ensure our children and young people learn how to prevent the problems from happening in the first place. Reinstitute proper kitchens and domestic science lessons in all our schools, before it’s too late to stop the rot. Let’s teach the next generation to cook, cook, cook, not tax, tax, tax like taxation is a solution for everything that has gone wrong in this country. It isn’t.