(NaturalNews) An initiative to encourage healthy food choices and at the same time educate children about growing and cooking foods has the endorsement of the Australian Federal Government for a rollout of the program to schools around Australia.
The concept called "A Kitchen Garden" is designed for children in years 3-6 and is hands on in both the kitchen and the garden. The children are involved in designing, building, and maintaining an organic garden. They also spend time in a kitchen classroom where they prepare meals using produce from the garden.
The idea for the program came from well known Australian chef Stephanie Alexander. Starting as an experiment in 2001, it has now expanded to 190 schools this year. Her motivation stemmed from a desire to improve food choices for children and for it to be part of their education while also making it pleasurable and engaging.
The benefits of the program are that children are also learning to work in groups, to solve problems and create solutions, to calculate and estimate as well as learning about cultural and culinary differences. They learn that some things don't happen instantly.
The program is divided into 4 sections: Growing, Harvesting, Preparing, Sharing. Throughout the program techniques are reinforced so that the children are able to do reproduce what they learn at home.
Children learn about organic gardening and how to garden when there's a shortage of water. They learn that eggshells deter snails so that they can protect the plants. The range of vegetables they grow includes broccoli, beans, fennel, zucchini and rhubarb.
Dishes in the kitchen are based on food kids like such as pasta, pizza and pies but using fresh vegetables and herbs. Kids may make pumpkin gnocchi (a pasta), bread or bread bean dip. Dishes also include calzone, ravioli, fritters, muffins, salads, risotto, soup.
The schools work with community volunteers to create and maintain the gardens, as well as to help build kitchen space. The project employs a cook, a gardener and two specialist staff and volunteers assist in the kitchen. The children work in small groups assisted by volunteers. The success of the program is dependent on volunteers.
The program is currently being evaluated by research teams from the University of Melbourne and another from Deakin University.
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