Media releases

May 6, 2014

Medibank proud to support 500 schools participating in Kitchen Garden program

Australia's innovative food education program - the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program for primary schools - has welcomed its 500th school.

Students from Randwick Public School in Sydney have joined over 70,000 other primary school children across Australia growing, cooking and eating their own healthy food.

Since Stephanie Alexander started the first Kitchen Garden Program at Collingwood College in Melbourne in 2001, more than 170,000 children* have enthusiastically been getting their hands dirty and learning lifelong skills of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal food.

Founder of the Program, Stephanie Alexander AO, says the success of the Program is directly linked to students having fun as they learn to care for a garden, plant and harvest food, and cook delicious dishes that are simple and full of goodness. All activities are integrated with the general curriculum and are practical, thought-provoking and suitable for all learning styles.

"A main reason for starting this Program was my concern about the poor food choices made by many children and families. Poor food choices are directly linked to Australia's growing obesity problem and are often the result of people simply not understanding how to prepare fresh, nutritious and delicious food," said Stephanie.

"I strongly believe that the way to change how kids feel about food is for them to learn about it from the very beginning from planting a seed, and watering it in, to harvesting food when it is ready, bringing it into a kitchen and cooking it before sitting around the table and eating with their friends. As their dish is praised by their peers their pride shows. Very quickly students will readily try unfamiliar foods."

The Managing Director of the Foundation's Principal Partner Medibank, George Savvides, joined Stephanie and the Foundation to celebrate the 500 Kitchen Garden School milestone.

"Encouraging healthy eating habits, greater physical activity and community connectedness are the three core aims of the Medibank Community Fund and through our shared goals with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, we are proud to have played a role in helping Australian children and their families achieve a much greater awareness and understanding of healthy food and eating practice," Mr Savvides said.

The Kitchen Garden Program integrates across the Australian Curriculum, including maths, literacy, science, history, geography and technologies.

A recent evaluation of the Program by the University of Wollongong found:

  • 97 per cent of teachers responded positively to how the Program supported classroom learning. They reported that students found the hands-on activities engaging and it aided learning across other subject areas, commenting that the Program 'forms an intrinsic part of our students' learning'.

  • Teachers reported improvements in students' social behaviours, with 86 per cent of reporting improvements in students' teamwork skills.

CEO of the Foundation, Ange Barry, says the 500 school milestone would not have been possible without the support of government, corporate, philanthropic and community sources.

"It's truly humbling to be part of a national groundswell that is introducing the next generation of young Australians to lifelong healthy eating habits and at the same time addresses the growing incidence of childhood obesity in this country," she said.

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