Cheese grows on trees, say some kids

21:51, Feb 19 2013
Hands-on: Plateau School pupils Morgan Dellow, left, and Sam Taylor, both 10, with one of the school’s raised vege gardens and potatoes grown in buckets. The families of both children have home vege gardens and Sam’s mother, Sharon Lysaght, helps pupils to tend the school gardens. Morgan and Sam had little trouble answering questions about food origins. They correctly answered questions about cheese, yoghurt, pasta, honey, mutton and wool. Their only confusion was thinking cotton comes from sheep.

Upper Hutt is well-known for its mix of rural and urban living, but a recent survey suggests local children are a little hazy on the journey their food takes from paddock to plate.

Following on from a similar study by the Australian Council for Educational Research last year, the Leader quizzed 54 students from Maoribank, Fraser Crescent and Silverstream Schools about where household foods such as cheese, yoghurt, pasta and honey came from. One in five year-6 students said yoghurt came from a plant and slightly fewer pupils said cheese grew on trees, at 17 per cent.

Year-6 students were on solid ground when asked where wool socks came from, with 91 percent identifying the winter toe- warmers as an animal product.

However, close to half of students thought cotton socks also started off as a layer of woolly protection for a farmyard animal. Most children knew which animals pork, bacon, and beef came from, but sheep meat was a less familiar food.

Guesses included mutton dressed as bull, duck, horse, deer, bird and goat, with only 37 percent pointing to sheep as its origin.

Maoribank School deputy principal Karen Wellington said several children at the school had eaten muttonbird before and this might be a source of confusion.


She found the cotton socks result the most surprising. She said that children in the United States might be more clued up about where cotton comes from because of the presence of cotton farms.

Mangaroa resident Bob McLellan is president of the Upper Hutt Town and Country Association and has lived in a rural area for more than 40 years.

He was also surprised at how many pupils thought cotton socks were an animal product, although he said that this might be because cotton looks similar to wool.

"There's always some logic to what kids say."

Mr McLellan said the results illustrated a loss of knowledge as people moved away from where their food was produced.

"This is what we see as New Zealand evolves."

Fraser Crescent School deputy principal Michelle Picard said that the results were not particularly unexpected.

She said that, although the school took steps to teach children about food, there were still students who did not make the connection between what they ate and the raw product.

Silverstream School teacher Lisa Cross said that the school taught students about dairy products two years ago and this might explain the high level of knowledge about yoghurt and cheese.

She noted that mutton was an old-fashioned term and was not surprised that few pupils knew what it meant.

Clyma Park Community Garden chairman Konrad Hickson said the results of the survey were better than he thought they would be and most students had a general understanding of where their food comes from.

He said that children would come with their parents to the public gardens.

Occasionally Mr Hickson would have to explain which vegetables new gardeners were looking at.

"The only way that people understand [fruit and vegetables] is how they see it in the shops."

46 per cent thought cotton socks came from an animal.
17 per cent said cheese came from a plant.
20 per cent said the same for yoghurt.
35 per cent identified pasta as an animal product.
20 per cent thought honey came from a plant.
63 per cent did not know which animal mutton comes from.

Upper Hutt Leader