From paddock to plate: school kids get their own veggie patch

Representatives from the Stephanie Alexander Foundation with teachers from Rooty Hill Public School, Blacktown West Public School and Walters Road Public School.

A revolutionary food education program is taking the fight against diabetes and obesity into schools, with western Sydney children now growing their own fresh produce in the school yard.

The Western Sydney Diabetes (WSD) and Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation program aims to ‘teach the teacher’ about exciting ways to engage students on how to grow, harvest and prepare fresh produce and to create and share healthy meals.

Teachers from Blacktown West Public School, Walters Road Public School and Rooty Hill Public School have attended a professional development day run by the Kitchen Garden Foundation and sponsored by WSD, for a hands-on introduction to the program.

The Kitchen Garden Foundation is one of more than 120 organisations and businesses to have joined the WSD Alliance to ‘beat diabetes together’.

Kitchen Garden Foundation CEO Josephene Duffy said the Foundation was delighted to partner with WSD to support western Sydney schools in starting a kitchen garden program.

“Teaching children the joys of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal and delicious food, will help them develop positive food habits for life,” Josephene said.

“Children, teachers and families love it. It is a community-based intervention that has a genuine ability to transform local food cultures and improve education and social cohesion at the same time.”

Blacktown West principal Meg Peel said she is excited about the potential of the program, which can enhance academic learning as well as the overall health of students and their families.

Blacktown West Public School’s garden.

“Students will engage in paddock-to-plate activities which will provide them with the knowledge and skills to prepare a range of healthy snacks and meals for themselves and their families using seasonal produce.

“It is our aim to reduce the reliance on prepared snacks, which have high salt and sugar content, for recess and lunch each day and to see an increase in fresh food being consumed by the students.”

WSD director Professor Glen Maberly said partnerships like the one with the Kitchen Garden Foundation play an important role in helping to get the community involved in breaking the cycle of diabetes in western Sydney.

“The diabetes epidemic is largely driven by obesity and given that more than 60 percent of the western Sydney population is overweight or obese, we have a ticking time bomb on our hands,” Prof Maberly said.

“Prevention is the best way to take the heat out of the western Sydney diabetes hotspot and it starts with teaching children the essential life skills that will steer them toward a healthier and diabetes-free future.” 

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) invests approximately $2 million annually on tackling obesity, and $1.5 million for the Western Sydney Diabetes initiative.

WSD is an initiative of Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), operating in partnership with Western Sydney Primary Health Network, Diabetes NSW & ACT and PwC.

For more information visit the WSD website.