Kitchen gar­dens at schools around Aus­tralia are teach­ing chil­dren the joys of eat­ing healthy, sea­sonal food.


THE WA School Can­teen As­so­ci­a­tion Inc. (WASCA) and the Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion are work­ing with schools to en­cour­age a whole-school ap­proach to nu­tri­tious eat­ing.

The aim – to help stu­dents de­velop pos­i­tive food habits for life.

Part of that whole-school ap­proach means teach­ing chil­dren the joys of grow­ing, har­vest­ing, pre­par­ing and shar­ing fresh, sea­sonal de­li­cious food through a kitchen gar­den pro­gram.

The Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion is now work­ing with more than 1600 schools and cen­tres across Aus­tralia run­ning a kitchen gar­den pro­gram.

In a kitchen gar­den pro­gram, chil­dren ac­tively grow and har­vest their own veg­eta­bles, herbs and fruit and, along­side their peers and adult helpers, pre­pare sea­sonal dishes with care and a fo­cus on de­li­cious­ness.

Ev­ery­one then sits down to­gether to en­joy and share tastes of the dishes they’ve made.

When they par­tic­i­pate in a kitchen gar­den pro­gram, chil­dren are fully en­gaged in grow­ing and cook­ing food.

They un­der­stand where their food comes from, and learn the skills they need to feed them­selves well.

In the process, they make links to learn­ing ar­eas in the cur­ricu­lum and un­der­stand more about the en­vi­ron­ment, sus­tain­abil­ity, and other cul­tures.

An eval­u­a­tion of the Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Pro­gram, by Deakin Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne, demon­strated that the pro­gram en­cour­aged pos­i­tive health be­hav­iour change in par­tic­i­pat­ing chil­dren.

The Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion is now work­ing with more than 1600 schools and cen­tres across Aus­tralia run­ning a kitchen gar­den pro­gram.

The eval­u­a­tion also show­cased the trans­fer of ben­e­fits to the home and the broader com­mu­nity.

School can­teens also have an im­por­tant role to play in pro­mot­ing healthy eat­ing to the school com­mu­nity.

WASCA sup­ports schools to im­ple­ment the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Healthy Food and Drink pol­icy (HFD pol­icy), first launched in 2007.

A whole-school ap­proach in this sense re­lates to the link be­tween the can­teen and what is taught in the class­room.

The HFD pol­icy is based on the Aus­tralian Di­etary Guide­lines and a traf­fic light sys­tem of cat­e­goris­ing foods. Com­mon can­teen items in­clude:

Green: Fill the menu – min­i­mum 60% of foods such as sand­wiches, wraps, sushi, frit­tata, rice pa­per rolls, veg­etable curry, fruit salad, water and re­duced fat dairy.

Am­ber: Se­lect care­fully – max­i­mum 40% of foods such as fruit muffins, full fat dairy, 99% fruit juice.

Red: Off the menu in WA schools, e.g. soft drink, choco­late, deep fried food.

Ac­cord­ing to Me­gan Sauzier, Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer at WASCA, a re­cent eval­u­a­tion to as­sess cur­rent lev­els of aware­ness and com­pli­ance in schools a decade af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of the pol­icy has re­vealed pos­i­tive re­sults. For ex­am­ple:

• 80% find the traf­fic light sys­tem easy to un­der­stand.

• 80% of can­teen man­agers are con­fi­dent to colour code menus.

• 90% feel the pol­icy is a good op­por­tu­nity to teach chil­dren about healthy eat­ing.

• 95% know red means ‘off the menu’. While both the HFD Pol­icy and kitchen gar­den pro­grams work well in schools, the most en­cour­ag­ing ev­i­dence comes from schools where there is a strong col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach be­tween the kitchen gar­den, class­room and can­teen.

Top tips for link­ing a kitchen gar­den and can­teen:

• Use fresh pro­duce from the gar­den in the can­teen, and re­turn food scraps to the gar­den for com­post­ing.

• Share recipes used in a kitchen gar­den pro­gram with can­teen staff.

• In­vite can­teen staff to kitchen gar­den work­shops.

• Run a com­pe­ti­tion where stu­dents de­velop a recipe us­ing gar­den pro­duce, and the win­ning recipe is added to the can­teen menu.

• Hold a com­mu­nity event where par­ents can take a gar­den tour, visit the can­teen and sam­ple dishes pre­pared by stu­dents, as well as can­teen fare. This is also great way to at­tract more vol­un­teers for kitchen gar­den pro­grams.


Mar­garet River Pri­mary School, WA The jour­ney to­wards a health­ier can­teen and school en­vi­ron­ment at Mar­garet River Pri­mary be­gan in 2014.

A pas­sion­ate group of par­ents voiced their con­cerns re­gard­ing some dis­crep­an­cies in what was be­ing taught in the class­rooms about nu­tri­tious eat­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the school’s kitchen gar­den pro­gram, and what was be­ing of­fered at the school can­teen (mainly am­ber items).


• Ed­u­cat­ing and train­ing all can­teen staff, e.g. on­line train­ing on the traf­fic light sys­tem of cat­e­goris­ing foods.

• Can­teen man­ager re­port­ing to and at­tend­ing all P&C com­mit­tee meet­ings.

• Rais­ing the pro­file of the can­teen and the changes be­ing made through the news­let­ter and school blog.

• Ad­ver­tis­ing and tri­alling new menu items each term for in­cor­po­ra­tion into

fu­ture sea­sonal menus.

• En­gag­ing the kitchen spe­cial­ist, from the school’s kitchen gar­den pro­gram, to cook three hours per week for the can­teen so the can­teen staff can heat and serve nu­tri­tious meals util­is­ing the school gar­den pro­duce.

Vasse Pri­mary School, WA

Vasse Pri­mary School has con­nected its kitchen gar­den and can­teen to pro­vide fresh, sea­sonal pro­duce for use in snacks and school meals.

The school’s can­teen has a set menu which uses pro­duce from the gar­den, as well as spe­cials which are based on sur­plus pro­duce. Menu items in­clude sal­ads, broc­coli quiche, spaghetti bolog­nese fea­tur­ing veg­gies and herbs, and veg­gie and fruit sticks for snacks.

The school be­came a Kitchen Gar­den Class­room mem­ber, through the Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion, and used the Foun­da­tion’s re­sources to help link the gar­den and can­teen. Strate­gies:

• En­cour­ag­ing the can­teen man­ager to visit the gar­den reg­u­larly to check on the progress of the plants and de­velop a good un­der­stand­ing of gar­den prac­tices.

• En­sur­ing can­teen staff un­der­stand the need for flex­i­bil­ity when plan­ning menu items as there will be times when pro­duce quan­ti­ties and qual­i­ties will be

af­fected by weather, pests, etc.

• Plan­ning menus care­fully to make full use of the gar­den’s pro­duce and to min­imise waste and the need to spend money buy­ing in­gre­di­ents.

• Us­ing the Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion’s Plant­ing Chart and Kitchen Gar­den Pro­gram Sea­sonal Plan­ner to co­or­di­nate sea­sonal plant­ings, to en­sure there is enough har­vest to meet de­mand.

• In­volv­ing stu­dents in the process of plan­ning and co­or­di­nat­ing what needs to be planted in the gar­den to sup­ply the can­teen.

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.waschool­can­teens.org.au and www.kitchen­gar­den­foun­da­tion.org.au.

All im­ages: Stephanie Alexan­der Kitchen Gar­den Foun­da­tion.

Mar­garet River Pri­mary School stu­dents har­vest­ing spring onions.

The health har­vest from the Vasse pri­mary school gar­den.

Mar­garet River pri­mary school stu­dents shar­ing a meal.

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