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).
“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.”