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Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Programme

Garden to Table was the brainchild of Stephanie Alexander of Melbourne when she joined forces with a Melbourne school in 2001 called the ‘Kitchen Garden Program’.

Fast forward to 2009 when Stephanie helped set up “Garden to Table” in New Zealand. From humble beginnings the scheme was tested in three Auckland schools, all of different decile ratings and the children’s curiosity took off!

Since then, countless more school children around New Zealand are learning the benefits, enjoying their triumphs and eating fruit and vegetables they have never seen before, let alone tried. Negotiate with your kids to eat grated beetroot at home and you could be pushing compost uphill. But get them together with school friends in a fun kitchen environment and some healthy peer pressure will soon sort that out!

Teacher Helen Armstrong from East Tamaki School says “the benefits of Garden to Table extend well beyond the children’s new cooking and planting skills”. She has seen a big change in their social skills too – from sitting at a table, learning to share food and practising their manners, all of which are hard to teach in a traditional classroom setting. “And surprisingly Garden to Table has helped with the kids’ writing”, she says. Each student records what they have done each day and Helen noticed improvements, particularly in their descriptive writing.

The programme focuses particularly on children in Years 4-6 but some school are even introducing the scheme to classes as young as Year 2.

Garden to Table is exactly that. Students weed and feed gardens, collect seeds, make compost, turn soil followed by kitchen time with boiling, chopping, grating, baking roasting and mixing. Plus there are the added bonuses of learning about good and bad bugs, kitchen safety and applying maths when using metrics.

With packaged food being so common in today’s lifestyle, it is these ‘hands on’ skills of growing and preparing food straight from the tree or ground which takes many of us back to our own gardens or those fruit trees we climbed at our grandparents home.

Garden to Table is a not-for-profit, charitable organisation which relies heavily on the generosity and commitment from schools, volunteers, businesses and individuals. Browse their website and you will be pleased to see a long list of businesses partnering up with GTT – businesses such as The Warehouse, YouthTown, NZ Post, McGregors Seeds, Living Earth, Tui, Countdown and Auckland Council.

Thanks to Stephanie Alexander this generation is going to be more aware of the importance of a good diet, be able to throw a meal together from scratch when flatting, be able to feed and save money for their families.

And a new generation for celebrity chefs is born.