Students harvest knowledge from campaign fighting childhood obesity
It all starts with a seed.
A pumpkin seed was planted last Spring by little hands in a garden at East Tamaki School, in the south Auckland suburb of Otara.
Today the pumpkin was washed, cooked and served in a vegetable curry by smiling students to celebrate the launch of a new in-school campaign targeting childhood obesity.
Launched at the of last week, Empower brings together the Life Education Trust and Garden to Table organisations to teach children the science behind food, as well as learning to grow and cook for themselves.
Chief executive for Life Education Trust, John O'Connell, said two organisations have come together to create something better through Empower.
A "one-stop-shop" for Kiwi classrooms, Empower brings together the theory taught in Life Education's mobile classrooms and the opportunity to put it into practice, he said.
Students spend a few hours each fortnight working in the school kitchen or garden in the new year-round programme.
Younger children might be working on developing one meal - older children, years 5-6, get to prepare and make seven-day meal plans, while also learning the science behind food and their physiology.
The first time O'Connell saw the programme in action, a group of kids were making pesto with basil they had grown.
"I was thinking my kids would have never eaten that green paste at home, but because they had grown it themselves and made it, these kids thought it was brilliant," he said.
Children are getting the chance to try things they never normally would, he said.
"If you can capture kids imaginations and they really understand it then they're on board - just telling them in a classroom doesn't do the same thing."
They then go home and tell their parents what they should and shouldn't be eating, he said.
"Multiply that, and it can have a huge impact."
East Tamaki School was one of three pilot schools for the Garden to Table programme back in 2009.
Principal at East Tamaki School, Sarah Mirams, said Empower would provide authentic learning "with a purpose" at the school.
"Maybe when these students are 30 or 40 with a home and family of their own they'll think back and know how to cook and garden because they learnt how to at school."
Caroline Tipasa first took part in Garden to Table when she was a year 6 student at East Tamaki School.
Now, 18, she said the programme ignited her love of cooking.
"When this first started when I was a student I just knew that cooking was for me."
Garden to Table's executive officer Linda Taylor said they never use the word "unhealthy".
Instead, their mantra is to grow, harvest, share and prepare.
We know that childhood obesity is a huge issue facing Kiwi kids, she said, but it's not about "finger-wagging and scolding kids to 'eat their greens'".
The aim is that children will develop a love of growing and cooking seasonal and cost-effective food, so they can take those lessons home with them, she said.
"A lot of children don't come from homes where they eat a lot of fresh food and produce so it can be hard to take what they learn at school and adapt it with their own families."
After cooking together, the children eat as a group. Being together and socialising around food is important as many families don't have evening meals together anymore, Taylor said.
Empower is for all kids, at all schools, she said. "It's not a decile thing, there's no stigma attached - it's about creating a love of growing and cooking food."