The Garden to Table Trust is urging the Government to invest in the development of gardening and cooking food skills to fight obesity in New Zealand.
The trust also says New Zealand needs to show international leadership by providing serious support for in-school skills- based food education.
Garden to Table founding trustee Catherine Bell says New Zealand needs to take its place alongside England, Brazil, Mexico and Japan in implementing a curriculum-based food literacy programme.
The trust supports celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s recent initiativeglobal change.org challenging all countries to introduce compulsory food education in schools.
“Jamie Oliver’s global petition urging all governments to offer food education for all children in the world is raising awareness of this need, and we encourage New Zealanders to sign it,” Ms Bell says.
“As well, we call on Government to work across health and education sectors to develop visionary policy around food literacy with a particular focus on improving outcomes for all children and young people.”
Executive officer of Garden to Table Anne Barrowclough says schools offering the Garden to Table programme continually comment on the range of benefits an embedded food education programme provides.
“For example, we hear that attendance is always good on Garden to Table days, team work and problem-solving skills are developed, and language skills improve, especially for those for whom English is a second language.
“We get feedback from volunteers about co-operation, depth of knowledge and interest in environment and fresh food, and from parents about practical skills that are coming home, the enthusiasm to try new vegetables, to suggest new recipes.
“The blogs from Edendale and Oaklands schools tell the story.”
Ms Barrowclough says a curriculum-integrated, in-school programme such as Garden to Table is more than just understanding how to make food choices.
“It’s actually about empowering children with a hands-on lesson, full of practical skill development focused on how to action those choices – what you need to grow your own tomatoes, how you follow a recipe, how to cook from fresh ingredients. It also adds immediacy and relevance to science and maths concepts.
“Learning is about more than telling, it is about experiencing, active engagement and interaction.”
Ms Bell says she now sees clearly that Garden to Table has the potential to change the attitudes and habits of whole future generations.
“It enables children to learn skills and have experiences that will influence and inform the rest of their lives and positively impact outcomes across their education, health and social development as well as give them respect for others and the natural world.
“Garden to Table will, without doubt, have a major and hugely positive impact on the increasingly worrying cycle of health-related illness, violence, poverty and lack of achievement that is evident today across this country.”
Jamie Oliver is petitioning the governments of G20 countries to introduce food education programmes in their nations’ schools. He says humanity is facing a global obesity epidemic, with 42 million children under the age of five either overweight or obese across the world.
The Garden to Table Trust was established in 2009 as a registered charity, to facilitate a programme, delivered in New Zealand primary schools, focussed on food education for children aged between seven and 10. They have the opportunity to participate in practical, hands-on, child-centric classes that teach them how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal produce.
The trust’s curriculum-integrated programme educates children about food, horticulture and their natural environment. Students work in small groups under the supervision of specialist staff, community volunteers and their teachers.
Consequently they learn about the environment and sustainability and enrich their curriculum subjects through hands-on, interactive learning. The programme also has many positive spin-offs for family and community life.
The Trust, co-founded by food writer Catherine Bell, was modelled on Australia’s well- documented Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Programme. Seven years on, the Garden to Table programme now supports 30 schools across the country, providing the opportunity for over 4000 children every week to engage in this practical programme.