Pupils miss out of vege education
Many schools are doing a great job teaching healthy cooking and eating but a recent survey showed some are lagging behind.
A lack of resources means teaching pupils about healthy cooking and eating has until now been largely left up to individual teachers and schools, according to Vegetables.co.nz advocate, Bruce Robertson.
Teaching pupils to cook not only teaches them a skill for life, but enables them to eat a more healthy diet which includes vegetables, he told the HortNZ annual conference in Christchurch.
Even though basic cooking skills were part of the school curriculum for year seven and eight (intermediate) pupils, there was a wide variation in what was actually taught, if anything.
“We surveyed over 100 schools to see what they were delivering,” he said.
“Some schools are doing a fabulous job and pupils are learning to cook healthy meals, but a whole lot of schools are doing nothing, even though it is in the curriculum. Some schools were cooking muffins and scones, rather than meals including vegetables.”
Representing a collaboration of national vegetable industry groups, vegetables.co.nz aims to increase knowledge and consumption of vegetables. It engaged the Economics and Technical Teachers’ Association and New Zealand Association for Intermediate and Middle Schools for input.
These organisations agreed that teaching pupils to cook healthy meals represented 16 one-and-a-half-hour lessons. But teachers were not supported with lesson plans and were on their own and looking for more professional development, Robertson said. “I appreciate that vegetable growers don’t have a lot of money and vegetables.co.nz is not massively resourced, so we partnered with the Heart Foundation and engaged experts to write those 16 lesson plans,” he said.
This included lesson sheets, recipe cards and assignments.
“So we are giving it a push along but utilising other people’s expertise and other people’s money to make it happen. When we surveyed schools, they replied that vegetables.co.nz was one of their most favoured sources of information.”
Cooking curriculum lesson plans were currently being trialled.
Robertson said one teacher reported that their students made the veg-up macaroni cheese recipe in groups of three, splitting the jobs between them.
“They loved the recipe and those who were sceptical about eating tomatoes actually tried them and seemed to like them,” they said.
While vegetables.co.nz was not changing the school curriculum it did need to change communities’ expectation of what was delivered, Robertson said – “That they want pupils to be able to cook a healthy meal, not just hokey pokey”. Vegetables.co.nz had advocated to the school principals and school trustees associations, Ministers of Education and Health, Cabinet ministers and opposition MPs.
“When we have pitched the idea, we have not received one negative response,” he said.
“Obesity is a big focus for Government and if we can teach kids life skills and how to cook a healthy meal, that has the potential to make a long-term difference to New Zealand’s obesity problem.”
Vegetables.co.nz was invited to join a Food Industry Taskforce on addressing factors contributing to obesity, which Robertson is chairing. Including companies such as Countdown and Coca-Cola, the taskforce had been charged by the Ministers of Health and Primary Industries to provide a report by mid-December.
“Obesity is a big focus for Government and if we can teach kids life skills and how to cook a healthy meal, that has the potential to make a long-term difference to New Zealand's obesity problem.”