Program Fundamentals

These 10 kitchen garden program fundamentals describe what it takes to deliver a best-practice Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

While we know that you will adapt your program to your unique setting, resources and community, the goal of every program is always the same: for every student to experience pleasurable food education.

These program fundamentals are designed to support you in implementing your kitchen garden program, and ensuring you get the most out of it for your students and community. Start small, work with what you have and use these program fundamentals to guide you in building a successful and sustainable Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

1. Commitment to the philosophy of pleasurable food education
Pleasurable food education is a fun, hands-on approach to teaching students of all ages about growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal, delicious food. Delivered through a kitchen garden program, pleasurable food education is underpinned by the philosophical belief that a student who is regularly engaged in activities in the garden and kitchen, and is invited to the table and encouraged to taste and to learn about nutritious, delicious food, will grow to embrace fresh, seasonal flavours, and understand much about the natural world and how to relate to others. Kitchen garden programs are most effective when staff and the community understand and embrace this approach.

2. A team of at least two people coordinating the kitchen garden program
It’s ideal for your school to have two kitchen garden coordinators for the program. They could be any staff member or, in some cases, parents or volunteers invested in running the program at your school. The key is that the coordinators, or team, are the central contacts and known as the ‘go-to’ people for your kitchen garden program. The team will oversee the running and development of the program. They will meet regularly to map out seasonal activities, oversee garden maintenance, help run kitchen and garden classes and work in collaboration with other educators to ensure the program underscores school objectives. 

3. A productive food garden
Your program needs a productive garden space to provide edible, aromatic produce for the kitchen. The cycle of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing begins here. In the garden, students aim to grow as much seasonal produce as possible and carry the fresh harvest into the kitchen. Crops are displayed on a harvest table, which provides a tangible link between the garden and kitchen. 

4. A kitchen and dining space
Your program requires a dedicated or flexible space to be used as a kitchen, with space for communal dining, ideally in (or adjacent to) the kitchen. The kitchen space can be as simple or purpose-built as your resources allow, but the focus should be on home-style so that the students feel welcome in the space and can easily transfer their learnings and skills from the school to the home. The dining area can be equally simple (trestle tables and table cloths are the easiest way to transform a space), and again the key is creating a welcoming place where the prepared foods can be shared. 

5. Regular garden classes
Regular garden classes give students the opportunity to learn how to grow produce, and develop a practical understanding of the seasons, the weather and the environment. Over time, students discover how to build and maintain an organic garden, learn about healthy soil and find out how to make and use compost. They also unearth the joys and rewards of working in groups and achieving shared goals. 

6. Regular kitchen classes
The cycle of planting, growing and harvesting culminates in the kitchen. Here, students make delicious dishes from the fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit they have grown. In a regular kitchen class, students develop a heightened awareness of food – where it comes from, how it’s grown, seasonality, the sensory nuances of taste, smell and texture, and the fun involved in cooking. At the end of each kitchen class, students and helpers come together at the table to share and sample tasting-size portions of the dishes they’ve made. 

7. Curriculum integration
Kitchen and garden activities should be used to support curriculum and learning objectives. There are numerous opportunities to reinforce literacy, numeracy, science, the cross-curriculum priorities, environmental sustainability, and so much more. A kitchen garden program is an excellent teaching tool for all learning areas of your curriculum. It can be used to underscore approaches such as STEM, wellbeing programs and project-based learning.

8. Whole-school approach
A whole-school approach involves parents and families, teachers, students and the broader community working together to support, reinforce and participate in pleasurable food education. Examples include incorporating your program into strategic and annual curriculum planning, offering a diversity of fresh, seasonal food to students through the school canteen, and allowing the philosophy of pleasurable food education to inspire school fundraising and other food-related initiatives. 

9. Community engagement
The best way to establish a kitchen garden program at your school is to involve your students and community from the very beginning. To engage a community means to reach out to educators, students and their families, as well as local businesses, groups, organisations and councils who will also participate in, and benefit from, pleasurable food education. Take small steps to build community support. Recruit volunteers, run working bees, raise funds and apply for sponsorships, grants and partnerships. Involve your students in local food-related events and networks. 

10. A sustainable program
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program is designed to become an integral element of school life and implemented in an ongoing way. Therefore, the long-term sustainability of your program should guide all the decisions you make for, and about, your program. This spans areas such as providing leadership and ensuring broader staff buy-in; ensuring staff and volunteer support; integrating the program with curriculum and broader strategic planning; and forming strong relationships and participation with families and the broader community.

You can find the full definition of each of the 10 fundamentals for early childhood services on the Shared Table.

We are here to provide the inspiration, information, professional development and support for you to deliver pleasurable food education. If you have questions about the program fundamentals, please don’t hesitate to contact our Support Team on 13000 SAKGF (13000 72543) or support@kitchengardenfoundation.org.au

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