Schools in Swindon borough who want help with teaching children how to cook, understand food, eat well and maintain a healthy weight should get in touch with the borough council.

Public health officer at the council Fiona Dickens told members of the authority’s adults’ health care and housing overview and scrutiny committee that rates of obesity and being overweight, which had been coming down, were starting to rise again, in line with English national trends.

She made the offer for schools to get in touch when members of the committee expressed concern that more children in deprived communities grew up with poor diet and lack of food education than in those in affluent areas.

Labour councillor for Liden, Eldene & Park South, Janine Howarth, a former primary school teacher, said: “It was often in more deprived areas where young children had the worst diet. It was often the easiest diet, often finger food, which meant they came to school not knowing how to use a knife and fork, and it would be the cheapest diet. Their parents were sometimes reluctant to buy healthier food not only because it might be more expensive, but if they didn’t have cookery skills, they didn’t want to buy food they weren’t familiar with in case it was wasted and that’s money wasted.

“We’d teach the children basic cookery skills, which was very important - you or I might think it's easy to cook an egg, but if you don't know how, it isn't."

Coun Howarth added: "The SureStart centres used to give a lot of good advice and support - is there anything we can do using the levelling up agenda to provide more help to more deprived areas?"

Mis Dickens said basic cookery lessons had often been overtaken by food technology lessons, but said the borough council would be happy to help schools if they got in touch.

Chairman of the committee Roger Smith warned that care need to be taken to ensure schools in deprived areas got the help.

And Ms Dickens explained some of the difficulties in talking both to families and schools about the dangers of obesity and being overweight.

She said: "When we've been to schools we've had to be careful about talking about health. We don't want to tip anyone over into disordered eating or eve eating disorders. We were working on one project and we wanted to weigh pupils to be able to see progress, but we were told weighing teenage girls is just not a good idea."