Less than half of Winnipeg's middle-school students are taking home economics classes, meaning they're not learning cooking and other fundamental life skills, according to a University of Manitoba professor.

"By Grade 12, that really reduces to about seven per cent of students. So, you know, it's not enough," Joyce Slater, an assistant professor of human nutritional sciences, told CBC News on Wednesday.

Slater says many schools don't even offer home economics anymore, and it's not mandatory at the provincial or school board level.

She is calling on the provincial government to make food preparation courses mandatory in schools.

Slater said food preparation classes are more than just cooking — it's about making good nutritional choices, adding that many families are too busy to teach those skills at home.

A lack of knowledge about meal planning and cooking can lead to an increase in obesity and other health issues, she added.

Young Winnipeggers had mixed responses when asked if they know how to cook, with some like 17-year-old Brittney West saying they've never made anything in their lives.

"My parents cook for me. And when they don't, I make soup in the microwave," West said, adding that schools should have other priorities.

But others, like University of Manitoba student Kayla Whitehurst, says cooking classes should always be offered.

"Everyone has to cook. If you want to be healthy you have to make healthy foods," she said, while making soup and pies in a nutrition class.