Every day the Kitchen Garden Foundation hears from our community about the impact of teaching children and young people how to grow and prepare their own food. Now, more than ever, we see that fundamental life skills and connected, resilient communities are at the heart of a happy, healthy society.
We know that the Kitchen Garden Program is changing lives, and has the capacity to improve many more. We also know that teachers and educators need ongoing support to continue delivering this program. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation provides this support.
We’d like to share just one shining example with you …
In Melbourne’s western suburbs, Altona Meadows Primary School (AMPS) has been running their Kitchen Garden Program since 2008. The school’s Kitchen Specialist, Marilena Joannides, credits the strength of the program to the participation of a diverse group of volunteers from across the community, the support and encouragement from Principal, Bill Reid and the strong participation and enjoyment from the broader teaching cohort at the school.
The Kitchen Garden Program is fully integrated into the day to day life of the school. As well as the weekly classes, Diwali festival is celebrated annually with Indian food and dancing and AMPS joins forces with schools from across Melbourne to press their annual olive harvests into tasty olive oil to be used on salads and pastas throughout the year. Marilena loves coming to work to continue to learn from the community every day.
With the assistance of the wonderful volunteers, the school has over 40 raised garden beds, abundant with seasonal produce which flows into the adjacent purpose-built kitchen year round. “It is very satisfying for the children when they see something grow from a seed and end up on the table,” explained Marilena. “They learn cooking and gardening skills and about healthy eating at an early age. There is a great sense of pride when they can grow and cook things for their families.”
Like schools across the country, AMPS had to respond quickly to COVID-19, and support students and parents whilst learning from home. Every week Marilena produced a series of recipe videos named ‘Marilenghi’, to ensure children continued to have their much loved kitchen garden experience. Yummy dishes such as Spanakorizo (Spinach Rice) and Cauliflower Soup, Baked Spinach & Silverbeet Gnocchi and of course Salad of the Imagination were consumed in households across Altona Meadows by some very lucky families!
Because of this response to COVID-19 “We have seen a change in the attitudes of our families. Cooking at home for many families has become a family activity, not just a parent activity. There is increased confidence and ability shown by students who do not necessarily do well in the normal classroom,” said Marilena.
Now we are all back in the classroom, we hope that everyone from the school and community will be growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal, delicious food once again.
The Foundation team recognises that the world is currently facing huge challenges. In times of crisis, we all turn to what’s most important. We have seen a renewed focus on growing your own food, accessing fresh produce and knowing what to do with it. An acknowledgment that healthy bodies are more likely to cope with health crises. An affirmation that promoting wellbeing and fostering a community mindset are vital in times of upheaval.
At its core, the Kitchen Garden Program enables the fundamental life skills of growing, cooking and sharing beautiful fresh food. It generates wellbeing and builds community through basic, universal needs: a delicious meal and growing happy, healthy kids.
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation is a not-for-profit charity, supporting 2000 schools and services around Australia. We need your help to see more success stories like Altona Meadows Primary School.
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