School Garden News – Australia

Kitchen garden funding to go national
Reporter: Lucy Carter,

ELEANOR HALL: Convincing children to eat their greens can be an uphill battle and getting them to enjoy it almost impossible. But a program that’s about to be rolled out to almost 200 primary schools across Australia is promising to turn that around.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has been running in Victoria since 2001.
Now the Federal Government has committed $12.8-million dollars to help the project to expand nationally.

Lucy Carter has more.
LUCY CARTER: It’s a program that teaches children literally from the ground up, trying to make the idea of organic food attractive and interesting to years three to six.

Celebrity chef, food writer and founder of the program, Stephanie Alexander explains.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: The children have one full class a week in the garden and a double class in the kitchen.

From the very beginnings, they start to learn about where their food comes from. They start to enjoy all the magic of a garden and then once the crops are ready for picking, they take their harvest into the kitchen and in the kitchen they are shown fantastic ways of turning this largely vegetable crop into lovely food.

LUCY CARTER: Ms Alexander says the program encourages children to look at food in a number of different ways.

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: They learn both actual cooking skills but they also learn the infinite potential of the stuff they’ve grown in the garden and then they sit around a table with their friends and with the volunteers who assist and learn all about the social joys of sharing food around a table which for many of them is a new experience.

LUCY CARTER: Sarah Warren is the Kitchen Garden program coordinator at Southmoor Primary School in Victoria, one of 27 schools in the state that currently has the program in place.

SARAH WARREN: It is not just a program that looks at cooking skills. It is a program that is really developing that whole knowledge of where food comes from and what it looks like if it is growing in the ground and not just picked up from the supermarket.

LUCY CARTER: She says teaching children about sharing food is one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.

SARAH WARREN: Especially when we first started, I mean the number of children that hadn’t set a table before and hadn’t really sat down on a daily basis and shared a meal with people that they are at home with, so I think that is a really important sort of social aspect of it.

It makes it more than just a cooking program. It makes it more of a, you know sharing what they have eaten and really enjoying and celebrating what they have actually grown.

LUCY CARTER: The program has been so successful in Victoria, it secured $12.8-million dollars in federal funding to help it expand it nationally.

Over the next four years, almost 200 schools will be able to apply for grants to set up their own kitchen garden.

Sharon Reeves is the principal of Alawa Primary School in Darwin. Her school already has a small farm in place, but will incorporate the kitchen garden program from next year, and act as a demonstration school for the Territory.

SHARON REEVES: I think it gives the purpose to the farm. I just think it is a wonderful opportunity for our students that I can’t see any equivalent for.

LUCY CARTER: She says the school has huge expectations for the project.

SHARON REEVES: Big visions of inviting like the dads one week and the mums another week and maybe grandmas or friends of the family, because we really want to encouraging that link too and build it in – working in partnership between the school and home, and therefore strengthening the links of school that way as well.

LUCY CARTER: The Federal Government is expected to announce this week which schools have received grants to start kitchen garden projects.

ELEANOR HALL: Lucy Carter reporting.

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