Cooking in schools: you can stir the pot _______________________________
Vegetables.co is involved in helping kids to cook. You, as parents, could play an important role in this by encouraging your schools to include healthy cooking in the curriculum.
ANDRE DE BRUIN, CHAIRMAN OF VEGETABLES.CO.NZ AND A KUMARA GROWER.
The growers who make up the committee of vegetables.co.nz began the Kids Can Cook a Meal project 18 months ago. Kids Can Cook a Meal is about teaching children the skills needed to cook a healthy meal so future generations will be well equipped to enjoy a nutritious and varied diet using locally-grown produce.
However, while some schools are doing a great job at teaching cooking as a life skill, many are struggling with this task. We need to lift the bar to help our schools to do this.
A survey of Year 7&8 school cooking programmes found only 13% of teachers identified students being able to plan and prepare a complete main meal as a key learning objective.
Other key findings include:
• Less than 50% of the food prepared by school students constituted a main meal, with many opting for cakes, muffins and desserts;
• Just 10% of teachers surveyed said that the inclusion of fruit and vegetables influenced their recipe choice;
• The standard and consistency of teaching cooking as a life skill varies significantly between schools. As a direct result of this research, vegetables.co.nz has been working to raise the profile of school cooking and challenge the interpretation of the current curriculum. We have been doing this in a number of ways including:
• Education. Teachers and principals from targeted schools have agreed there is a need to give teachers access to practical resources, professional development and collegial support. Teaching staff also identified the time needed to achieve their targets as a vital factor.
• Advocacy. We have told government officials that cooking a nutritious meal should be a key curriculum requirement and that support be provided to enable this.
• Industry stakeholders. Vegetables. co.nz, along with the Heart Foundation, has taken a lead role in bringing together key representatives of several groups who are educating students on healthy food choices. The aim is to work together to provide the support and tools needed to encourage cooking in schools.
• Community. There is an expectation within most New Zealand communities that our children will have the opportunity to learn practical cooking skills. To make this happen, we need to promote the idea locally.
“We want Kiwi kids to have the skills and ability to cook a healthy meal with vegetables”