It’s always been important to me that people understand and respect where their food comes from.

There seems to be an abundance of pre packaged meals and convenience foods available these days, including a range of pre sliced fruit + veg and pre boiled, peeled eggs. While I can appreciate nutritious snacks are better than sugar laden ones, it’s the simple life lessons missed and disconnect created from consuming these pre packaged foods that worries me.  So I took great heart in visiting Owairaka Primary School in Mt Albert, Auckland and seeing first hand the Garden to Table programme in action.

Their goal is to change the way children throughout New Zealand approach and think about food.  To get their hands dirty and learn how to grow, harvest, prepare, cook and share fresh, nutritious, seasonal produce.

I wasn’t the most dedicated of students, academically speaking, so am a firm believer in the results that can be achieved from creating learning environments outside of a traditional classroom.  In this case kids develop a greater understanding of nutrition & sustainability, and therefore the ability to make better choices.  The tasks set in the garden and kitchen clearly aid in improving social skills like communication, teamwork, collaboration & working with adult volunteers. 

The pride the kids have in what they’ve accomplished is extraordinary – from growing the produce right through to cooking and eating meals together.  It’s easy to see why schools consistently record lower rates of absenteeism on the days the programme runs.    

As you can imagine, significant resource, both human and financial, is required to implement and oversee the Garden To Table curriculum. So far it has only been available to schools within areas where regional coordinators are funded (Auckland, Northland, Hawkes Bay, Wellington & Christchurch).

The dedicated team behind the initiative have big plans for expansion this year however, through the launch of an online programme. This will make it far more accessible to any school throughout New Zealand and I’m thrilled to be working with them to help achieve this growth.

If you know of a school you think would benefit from introducing Garden to Table or would like to know how to help out or get involved locally visit here