Linking your Kitchen Garden Program to your school canteen

Thursday, June 25, 2020

This article was created in a joint collaboration with the Western Australian School Canteen Association (WASCA). 

School canteens have an important role to play in promoting healthy eating to the school community. The missing ingredient to creating a greener, healthier menu and forming positive food habits for life, could be as simple as linking your kitchen garden program with your canteen. Students at Vasse Primary School in Western Australia have cast their nets wider for a whole-school approach that involves their canteen, The Hungry Magpie. The school’s kitchen garden program provides the Hungry Magpie with fresh, seasonal organic produce for use on their menu.

They have a strong collaborative approach between the kitchen garden, classroom and canteen. At the heart of this approach, communication is the not-so-secret sauce to success. Fiona Jennings, classroom teacher at Vasse Primary, oversees the kitchen and garden activities at the school; Fiona explains that, “The canteen manager has a good understanding of growing produce and garden practices and visits the garden regularly to check on the progress of the plants.” She also noted that the canteen understands the need for flexibility as produce yields and quality is affected by so many variables including weather and pests. Dan, the kitchen garden chef at Vasse Primary is now on the Canteen committee and provides invaluable advice. “Now that we are running the kitchen side of the program with the students, working together and communicating well is important to allow both the canteen and the students to have access to the fresh produce.”

The canteen is creative in how it plans the use of seasonal produce, incorporating fruit and vegetables and herbs from the garden into its range of lunch and morning tea items. The Hungry Magpie runs a set menu with an understanding of the seasons, using produce from the garden, as well as creating specials from excess produce.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has shown children to be fully engaged in growing and cooking food. They understand where their food comes from and learn the skills needed to feed themselves well. In the process, they make links to learning areas in the curriculum and understand more about the environment, sustainability and other cultures. Linking the canteen in with the kitchen garden program has fundamentally changed the children’s approach to gardening. Students are growing food for a purpose and show a sense of pride in achieving that goal.

To be the sole provider of produce for the canteen would be a huge undertaking, Vasse primary is supplementing the produce used by the canteen. The aim for successfully linking kitchen gardens and canteens is to start small and grow. The Western Australian School Canteen Association (WASCA) have provided some great ideas on how kitchen gardens and canteens can start small and work together:

  • Use fresh produce from the garden in the canteen and return food scraps to the garden for composting.
  • Invite canteen staff to kitchen garden workshops.
  • Hold a community event where parents can take a garden tour, visit the canteen and sample dishes prepared by students.
  • Share recipes used in a kitchen garden program with canteen staff.

These are great opportunities to attract volunteers to your kitchen garden program.

We would love to see schools and canteens working together to grow, harvest, prepare and share to help form positive food habits for life. Feel free to visit the WASCA website for more great ideas on how canteens can promote healthy eating in your school.

Remember our Support Team is always available on 13000 SAKGF (13000 72543) to offer advice on your kitchen garden program, or if you would like to join us and require further information.

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