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.

NZ Grower - - Horticulture Conference - By Heather Chalmers Photos by Ivor Earp

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.”

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