Following the success of the Garden to Table programme in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, primary and intermediate schools all over the country now have the opportunity to introduce the food education programme to their students via a comprehensive online portal launched last week.
The charity aims to bring an additional 350 schools across the country into the programme through its online platform. It includes comprehensive resources for the garden, kitchen and volunteers, recipes, instructional videos and a range of curriculum resources aligned with the NZ primary school curriculum to ensure the programme is well integrated with learning outcomes.
Garden to Table executive officer Linda Taylor says the benefits and follow on effects of Garden to Table are huge.
“The programme empowers not only school children but a whole community around them to develop their own creative solutions and take pride in themselves and their environment.
“Schools with Garden to Table report more engaged learning, lower absentee rates on Garden to Table days, and an increased number of children growing and cooking cost-effective and sustainable good food at home,” Mrs Taylor says.
The vision is one shared by well-known Kiwi chef, restauranteur and author Al Brown, who believes it’s at the core of NZ as a nation and should be nurtured in our children. Brown has come on board as one of Garden to Table’s Ambassadors and is keen to see the programme in as many schools around the country as possible.
“It’s always been important to me that people understand and respect where their food comes from. The disconnect created by an abundance of pre-packaged convenience foods these days concerns me so I took great heart in visiting Owairaka District School in Auckland and seeing first-hand the Garden to Table programme in action.”
Brown’s support includes fronting five instructional videos that will be part of the Garden to Table programme and available to participating schools.
“The reason I love this programme is that kids develop solid skills and knowledge that will help them make better food choices, and widens their knowledge and awareness. It’s not a ‘you must do this’, ‘you mustn’t do that’ programme. It’s about having fun and learning along the way, and that helps to change behaviour.”
Mrs Taylor says now more than ever primary school-aged children benefit from developing a love of good food and the skills that ensure they know how to grow and prepare that food.
“With childhood obesity an increasing health issue in New Zealand, Garden to Table delivers a long-term solution to a myriad of health challenges facing our country by encouraging every child in New Zealand to learn how to grow, harvest, prepare and share good food through an ongoing, curriculum-integrated programme.
“The benefits of Garden to Table are myriad,” says Linda Taylor. “We are seeing improvements in children’s health and wellbeing, behaviour and self-esteem, and increased community engagement.
“Our aim is to help every school in New Zealand establish a Garden to Table programme, and the online platform makes this possible. We strongly encourage schools, parents and local businesses to get in touch if they would like to know more about Garden to Table.”