IF ONLY money grew on trees!
THE kitchen garden program at Foster Primary School has been a huge success since it was introduced to the school in October 2007.
Growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing are key components of the program, which aims to educate young children about the pleasures and benefits of fresh food, influencing their food choices for life and helping prevent obesity.
For the first two years of its existence the program received funding from the Stephanie Alexander Foundation. However, the program is now in its fourth year and must fund itself – at a cost of about $50,000 annually. There is an urgent need for financial help – primarily wages for the two garden and kitchen specialists, but also ingredients and equipment costs – so that this innovative program can continue into 2011 and beyond.
The school is looking to build an ongoing partnership with a community minded organisation which cares about the future.
The children of Foster Primary School, their parents, teachers and those members of the local community who have seen the school’s bountiful garden and busy kitchen are justifiably proud of the kitchen garden program.
Each week children across Grades 3 to 6 spend an hour in the extensive fruit and vegetable garden that they have helped design, build and maintain on the school grounds.
With garden specialist Juneen Schulz and a handful of community volunteers, they learn about plants, about seed saving, about water management, about compost and soil health. They also learn about the seasons, about plant varieties, about ripeness and about the connection between care in the garden and flavour on the plate.
In addition, the children spend one and a half hours each week in the school’s colourful purpose-built kitchen with kitchen specialist Kim Albert and volunteer cooking assistants, preparing and sharing a variety of meals created with their produce – from pasta, pizza and soups to salads, risotto and smoothies. Excess produce is preserved by making jams and chutneys, dehydrating, freezing and bottling – more new skills for the children. Of course, they also improve their maths skills with all the measuring involved in following recipes.
The aim of the program is pleasurable food education for young children, and so it has proven to be.
Here is what some of the children of Foster Primary have had to say about the kitchen garden program:
“Kitchen garden classes have changed the way I eat. Now I am willing to try more foods.” – Mathew.
“Who would have thought that a potato pizza would taste so good?!” – Lenny.
“Doing kitchen/garden has changed all the food that I hated into things that I love.” – Kian.
Parents have welcomed the program, too.
“I recently asked my girls to cook a meal for the family as I was trying to finish some work outside. Knowing what they had learned at school, I was confident to leave them to it. They were able to interpret the recipe, prepare, cook and serve it with pride – all because of the wonderful skills and confidence they have gained through this program.” – Heather.
One of the many qualities of the kitchen garden program is that it is all inclusive. It is not about being brilliant academically or a star on the sports field. It enriches and educates children and offers an opportunity to excel for children who may not perform strongly in a traditional classroom environment or who require additional assistance with life skills.
Teacher Marion Paulet commented: “The program has developed communication skills and fostered cooperative teamwork. It has expanded students’ knowledge and understanding of the origins of the food we eat and the progression from planting, nurturing, harvesting, preparing and eating.”
Glenyse Pyke, who teachers a 5-6 class, said: “Important connections have been made with the community through this program. Watching the interactions and building relationships between the students and volunteers has been amazing. Students are talking about pursuing the food industry as a possible career option.”
Committed to maintaining its highly successful kitchen garden program, Foster Primary School has written a sponsorship proposal listing the many benefits of partnership:
“Your sponsorship provides benefits that pure advertising dollars alone cannot create. Parents and community groups place a high value on the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and your sponsorship can reinforce brand equity and customer loyalty. For parents and children who already support your business, they will appreciate the commitment that you have made at a local level. For those who may not yet support your business, a child’s participation in the program provides opportunities to drive parents and other shoppers to your business over another.”
Program partners would be offered naming rights; a publicity event to celebrate the partnership; mention in all advertising – from print, radio and TV coverage to the weekly school newsletter; significant web presence; and logo representation on aprons.
“An ongoing partnership is what we’re looking for ideally, but one-off donations are also welcomed,” said kitchen specialist Kim Albert. “As outlined in the proposal, we can offer a business terrific value for money in a ‘feel good’ sense (being that the program is aimed at improving the health of 8 to 12-year-olds in a fun way) and because the program has a national profile.”
Can you provide financial help for Foster Primary School’s kitchen garden program or do you know a company or individual who can? The school is very keen to hear from anyone who can help. For further details please contact the principal of Foster Primary School, Mrs Fiona Bull. Tel. 5682 2370 or email [email protected]