In 2019 over 12,000 primary school students grew, cooked and ate nearly half a million vege-based meals.
Every week or fortnight, whole classes take part in gardening and cooking sessions and then sit down together, with volunteers from their family, whānau and the local community, to enjoy the food they have prepared. That's 29,520 hours of gardening, cooking, sharing meals and linking their actions back to the school curriculum with real-world learning.
The Garden to Table team, from the Far North down to Southland, spent 2,400 hours teaching and mentoring schools and volunteers so they can deliver their Garden to Table programme, by their community for their students.
And we're just getting started.
What the academic literature says about the impact of school gardens and food education.
Why children, and why at school?
“Food habits and preferences are established in childhood and tend to be maintained into adult life, as shown in longitudinal studies” (Kelder et al., 1994, Lytle et al., 2000)
"Children spend much of their time in school and many nutrition behaviors are established in this environment." (Wechsler et al., 2000)
“Although participating in nutrition education improved vegetable preference, participants liked the vegetables even more when the gardening component was included.”
“Gardening has been demonstrated to increase children's nutrition knowledge and preference regarding fruit and vegetable consumption and to change behaviors regarding vegetable consumption”Parmer et al. (2009). Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
“Our study’s findings show that garden-based nutrition education did have a significant effect on adolescents’ consumption of fruits and vegetables and selected nutrient intake.”
“These results help to show the importance of hands-on activities when attempting to change nutrition-related behavior such as fruit and vegetable consumption.”
McAleese & Rankin, (2007). Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Feedback from Garden to Table schools
“We just had camp and when they made their own burgers they used more vegetables lots more vegetables in their burgers.”
“The positives is the attitude towards vegies has changed, they have dips from vegies and more fruit. They wouldn’t have eaten this (healthy shared morning tea) so enthusiastically before.”
(Source: CEDOR research)
Impact at home
“I have a taro patch at home and now my two boys love to help and get dirty because they did it here at school. They also love vegetables now. I have learnt things – I didn’t know seaweed was good for the garden.”
“They have nurtured the plants, it’s an achievement and an attitude change for them. The kids come to the teachers and say what they have done at home.”
(Source: CEDOR research)
"Our productive vegetable gardens and kitchen become part of the children's everyday school experience. Here they learn the skills of a lifetime, and discover just how rewarding it is to grow, cook and share their own vegetables.
One of the pleasures of the programme is seeing children passing around plates of delicious food they have prepared themselves. Our children delight in the opportunity to show visitors around the garden during open days and school events. Their pride in the programme shines through particularly on these occasions."
- Eddie Norgate, Principal, Diamond Harbour Primary School
"Being a parent helper for GTT is genuinely rewarding. Watching the kids gain new skills that promote health and sustainability is great in itself, but has also seen us build our own vege garden at home and take pride and enjoyment in eating what we produce.
I can honestly say that my daughters have learnt so much and had their eyes opened to not only the possibility of producing your own vegetables and eating healthily but also good habits around sustainability and recycling. I'm convinced that learning has improved as a direct result of learning outside of the classroom too."
- Andrew Stringer, parent helper
"The curriculum areas that this programme can lend itself to are extensive. There are so many learning opportunities to be had outside the classroom now. Children are able to make inquiries about all sorts of things such as the compost and how it works; understanding what type of insects are helpful in the garden and which ones are not, knowing how to organically rid our gardens of certain pests, finding out about sourcing fair trade products for cooking - spices etc - questions like, where do the spices we use come from and how are they used in our cooking. The list goes on.
One of the most worthwhile programmes a school could invest in."
- Hunia Williams, Environment lead teacher, Cannons Creek School
Confidence and Participation
"The kitchen and garden both provide a very 'level playing field' for students. In these two environments, so different from the traditional classroom environment, different children's strengths and confidence emerge. Cannons Creek have the lowest absenteeism of their students on the day Garden to Table runs. Social skills also develop in these two environments - team work, collaboration, working with adult volunteers and sharing a communal meal at the end of each session. The communal meal and the children taking turns at 'front of house' is very rewarding for both the children and adults."
- Dr Anna Ferguson