The Garden to Table Charitable Trust is looking to expand its popular growing and cooking programme into early childhood education centres, with the first new garden beds installed at a kindergarten in Massey, Auckland, this week.
The trust provides hands-on learning support to about 300 primary schools across New Zealand, with more than 30,000 children growing and cooking over a million meals a year.
Its new initiative into early childhood education centre (ECEs) will see tamariki between the ages of two and five and their whānau learn to grow, harvest and cook fruit and vegetables in a tailored programme that links to the ECE curriculum.
Ani Brunet, Garden to Table Charitable Trust chief executive, said that “by getting young children gardening and cooking, we are investing in their future”.
“This will help achieve longer term health, social, economic and environmental benefits for tamariki, whānau and hapori (community). Imagine if children learn to grow and cook from ECE and primary right through to secondary school. This is our dream, so that growing, cooking and sharing delicious affordable and nutritious kai becomes a normal part of everyday life for tamariki and whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
The demand for Garden to Table has increased rapidly over the past few years as parents, whānau and educators recognise the educational, social and environmental impacts of teaching children to grow and cook kai.
Schools value the hands-on and real-world approach to learning that benefits ākonga right across subjects from maths and science to literacy and art.
“You’re never too young to experience the pride and joy of growing and preparing your own fruit and veges. We’re delighted to be nurturing and empowering some of New Zealand’s youngest gardeners and chefs. Learning where food comes from shifts the way children think about food and encourages healthy habits at a formative age. It’s incredible to see what young children can achieve!
“Supporting ECEs to run Garden to Table programmes is about imparting lifelong knowledge in our tamariki to foster resilient communities. Parents get involved and benefits travel home, and ripple into the wider community. Social connections are strengthened by people coming together through kai.
“Teaching tamariki about gardening and food helps build strong foundations for lifelong healthy habits to combat today’s pressing health, educational, social and environmental challenges,” Brunet said.
To mark the expansion of Garden to Table’s programme, a team of T&G Global volunteers joined the charity at Colwill Kindergarten in Massey to build their first garden beds and plant fruit and vege seedlings along with the kids and parents.
T&G’s head of corporate affairs, Adrienne Sharp, said the charity plays a fundamental role in growing healthy futures for New Zealand’s tamariki.
“Garden to Table is doing amazing work to get kids excited about fresh nutritious food through growing and cooking their own fruit and vegetables.”
The trust hopes to adapt its programme and launch into early childhood centres based on learnings from the pilot at Colwill Kindergarten, in Massey, Auckland.