Pota­toes in the school cur­ricu­lum ▴ Sarah Wirth. _______________________________

There are a num­ber of ar­eas where pota­toes fit well in the school cur­ricu­lum says Sarah Wirth, the pres­i­dent of the Home Eco­nomics and Tech­nol­ogy Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand (HETTANZ).

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“We al­ready know pota­toes are good,” she said.

“They’re fibre-rich, vir­tu­ally fat-free and high in B group vi­ta­mins and an­tiox­i­dants.”

Healthy food choices should be made at both school and home, with stu­dents able to read food la­bels and recog­nise some of the mixed mes­sages they might be re­ceiv­ing about dif­fer­ent foods.

The school cur­ricu­lum is the most ap­pro­pri­ate place to teach and de­velop cook­ing lit­er­acy skills as it reaches all chil­dren and pro­vides cross cur­ric­u­lar learn­ing, Sarah said. And pota­toes can eas­ily be in­cor­po­rated into read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic stud­ies in dif­fer­ent ways.

Homes are busy, mean­ing there of­ten isn’t time for chil­dren to cook there.

“That puts schools un­der pres­sure and we’re try­ing to fit a lot of sub­jects into a day.”

There are large Welling­ton schools which don’t teach home eco­nomics be­cause it is ex­pen­sive to set up the re­sources needed, com­pared with just a text­book or lap­tops for other sub­jects.

“The de­bate should be at what cost,” she said. When par­ents say at open days that they don’t cook, the ef­fect on their chil­dren needs to be looked at.

“We need to be em­pow­er­ing teach­ers to take the sub­ject back to schools.”

Some good ex­am­ples were the Sil­ver­stream Col­lege First 15 ex­per­i­ment­ing with cook­ing pota­toes in dif­fer­ent ways to boost their per­for­mance, and shar­ing the re­sults on so­cial me­dia. At an­other school a teacher re­ceived pota­toes from a lo­cal grower and used them to make a potato lemon cake, with that recipe now fea­tured on the Pota­toes NZ web­site. And at Sa­muel Mars­den Col­le­giate School, where Sarah Wirth is head of tech­nol­ogy, stu­dents cooked a pizza potato recipe in a mi­crowave.

“Pota­toes are a per­fect fit,” she said.

HETTANZ val­ues its spon­sor­ship from Pota­toes NZ greatly, she said.

“And it makes a huge amount of dif­fer­ence when the mes­sage is com­ing back from the grower to schools.”

In a panel dis­cus­sion that fol­lowed, Pukekohe grower Jayant Mas­ter said that there are clear ev­i­den­tial mes­sages about pota­toes which could be claimed. “Where are they avail­able for us to use?” he asked.

He also ques­tioned the vol­un­tary trans-Tas­man front of pack health star food rat­ing sys­tem which is de­signed to make it quicker and eas­ier for con­sumers to make bet­ter in­formed, healthy food choices.

“The user can for­mu­late their own rat­ing,” he said.

“It’s not reg­u­lated. Why not?”

Phillipa Hawthorne, spe­cial­ist ad­viser, food la­belling, with the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries who has worked on the sys­tem since its in­cep­tion, said that a tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sory group is look­ing at present at whether the rat­ing sys­tem is do­ing the job it was de­signed to do cor­rectly.

“Polic­ing is of­ten from com­peti­tors’ com­plain­ing,” she said.

“If there was a pre-ap­proval process the cost would be huge.”

But the sys­tem had been through some rapid change re­cently with style guide up­dates.

“It’s a trade­mark so it must be used cor­rectly,” she said.

“We’re cer­tainly keep­ing peo­ple in check.”

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