HEATHCOTE Primary students were treated to an afternoon of delicious food when Australian chef Stephanie Alexander came to town recently. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program has been in schools since 2001, with Heathcote Primary beginning its garden about six years ago.
“Usually we make a four or five course meal and it’s about teaching kids to grow their own food, make their own meals and eat healthy,” teacher Michele Witham said.
“We go all over the world too, the other week we had a four course Japanese meal which the students prepared.”
Ms Witham said it’s not just about the food — although it plays a major part.
“It’s about getting the students to cook but also have them sit down at a table and talk with one another,” she said.
As the students were feasting on spinach pinwheels Stephanie headed out to tour the school’s garden.
She said the program — which is now in about 1500 schools — helps students connect with their friends as well as learning healthy eating habits.
“It helps with children’s willingness to approach new flavours because they’ve seen the produce growing in their school garden,” Ms Alexander said.
“You have parents, grandparents and community members coming in to help out in the kitchen, it’s wonderful.
“It’s extremely satisfying to see the program running and I’m so proud of how it has been championed in smaller towns.”
The program shows students what fruits and vegetables are in season, how to eat healthier and what will grow in different conditions.
They also learn about sustainability, diversity, balance in a meal while having to read recipes and measure quantities.
“The public discourse around obesity is resorting to star systems and pyramids — it should be focusing on education,” Ms Alexander said.
“But a program such as this which focuses on long-term behaviour and developing good habits with food is part of a solution.
“And it involves the whole community, it’s hard for people to say no to a program that helps kids — we’ve had great support from Lions and Rotary Clubs as well as businesses like Bunnings.”
But for Stephanie, the most important aspect has been watching the next generation develop positive attitudes toward food.
“I’ve been in early learning centres where the kids are eating eggplant from the gardens they have,” she said.
“It’s been very important for me to see the younger kids taking an interest in cooking.”