Kids and Healthy Eating, a Community Affair

September 4, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

The garden project, teaches children the benefits of clean organic food and low food miles, Rob Nigro said. (Courtesy of Bob Dalling)
The garden project, teaches children the benefits of clean organic food and low food miles, Rob Nigro said. (Courtesy of Bob Dalling)
Australian children learn the joy of growing good food and eating it too, through school and environmental sustainability awareness programmes.

Jamie Oliver is trying hard to drive the message home, and so is Australia’s Gardening Odyssey, Costa. That is, getting the whole community more involved in gardening and eating more freshly grown fruit and vegetables.

Since their first modest crop last year, Boneo Primary school of Victoria, Australia, has encouraged many families including grandparents, and local businesses to take part in the active and open school community garden project, which is ongoing. The inception of the idea came from the need to focus on bringing families together with children and simply spending time, sharing knowledge and learning about the importance of good food and sustainability within the local environment.

Mr Rob Nigro, President of the Boneo School Council, has seen the benefits of having a school garden first hand, and this community spirit was evident as families came and shared a BBQ lunch of corn—freshly harvested.

The garden project, teaches children the benefits of clean organic food and low food miles, he said.

“We introduce the children to worm farms, reusing organic waste through composting and water minimisation.

“Children can then use their own knowledge to be more responsible for their own existence in the future,” he explained.

A New World of Eating

Aussie kids are embracing a new world of eating, through a range of similar programs including a hands on approach to growing and harvesting, and healthy cookery.

With new skills learned, children are more likely to take an interest in trying different, fresh foods, learning about healthy eating and even showing mum and dad a thing or two at home.

Stephanie Alexander, renowned food writer, restaurateur, cook and author of the classic Australian recipe book The Cook’s Companion, is the ambassador of the Kitchen Garden Foundation that runs programs in 138 primary schools throughout Australia. The program installs a life long enjoyment of growing, harvesting, preparing and eating healthy foods.

“A fundamental aim of the program has always been to show children the benefits of healthy food preparation and how it can become part of their everyday lives,” says Stephanie Alexander.

It has also been reported by participating teachers that the Kitchen Garden program is effective in engaging non-academic students, or those who may usually be less suited to a classroom environment. Incorporating a program like this, on a weekly basis may give these students a chance to shine and rediscover their personal strengths and connection to their peers.

Principle researcher for the program, Dr Lisa Gibbs, said: “The flow on effect of this program is significant, with many children asking their parents to cook healthy meals they have made at school.”

Healthier S-School Canteens

With obesity currently affecting 20-25 per cent of Australian children, parents and teachers have been forced to take a serious look into children’s lunch boxes and reassess the school canteen menu.

Following the 2005 obesity summit, a mandatory healthy canteen strategy in public schools was put in place nation wide. Food choices are now labelled by colour, green being an excellent contender, and red being an occasional choice. In this way, children are encouraged to buy nutritious, fresh foods and to learn what a good diet might consist of.

The Healthy Kids Association of Australia recently celebrated their second annual school canteen day. The Association provides support to school canteens and families, providing healthy recipes and implementing strategies to encourage children to learn about healthy eating choices and to help parents make healthier choices.

Rebecca Brennan from the Healthy Kids Association says good eating habits are best instilled from an early age.

“If school age children are overweight, they have more chance of being overweight as adults and all kinds of health problems will surface,” she said “We need to teach children how to overcome this problem through healthy eating.”

The ripple effects of projects such as these are endless and may serve the platform for a healthier Australia in the future. One study from the Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods suggests a link between poor diet and depression in adolescence. So, with even more reasons to promote better eating habits in young people, not to mention spend more time outside the classroom and in the garden, getting to know your community, there is only good things to gain from getting your hands dirty and picking the right food from the source.