Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Nurturing a love for healthy food, six New England North West early childhood centres are creating new kitchen gardens with a share of $25,000 in small grants from local nonprofit HealthWISE.

The local centres are Armidale’s Hobbit Preschool & Childcare Centre, Goodstart Early Learning South Tamworth, Gunnedah Preschool, Winanga-Li Early Learning & Care Service (also in Gunnedah), Narrabri’s Kogil Street Preschool and Willow Tree Preschool. 

Children will learn to grow, harvest and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables and begin developing positive associations with healthy food.

“We strongly implement sustainable practices in our service and can’t wait to start growing and maintaining our own wholesome, fresh produce to extend on our healthy eating practices, and learning and cooking experiences,” said Gunnedah Preschool educator Tarryn Noble said.

She said the centre was excited and grateful to be involved.

Grants of up to $3000 each will go towards developing the kitchen gardens and a membership in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, an online community which provides professional development and resources for educators establishing kitchen gardens.

“Willow Tree Preschool is very excited to embark on our kitchen garden journey. As the majority of our children are from farming families, our children have a passion for understanding the way our foods are grown,” said Willow Tree Preschool educator Leah Meyer.

She said the preschool will have a “very hands-on approach”, encouraging children to choose which foods are grown and later incorporated into their cooking sessions.

Goodstart Tamworth South centre director Kylie Murphy said the grant has helped the service develop their existing kitchen garden further, “growing delicious fruit and vegetables that the children are loving.”

This is the second year for the initiative, which helped 15 centres create kitchen gardens in 2023 as part of the HealthWISE Gift Fund, which supports community projects that promote health and wellbeing.

This year nine centres across North West NSW and southern Queensland are taking part.

“Embracing another year, we’re excited about supporting more early childhood education centres with our HealthWISE Gift Fund grants,” said HealthWISE Health Promotion Officer Kritika Jain.

“Encouraging fruit and vegetable intake through kitchen garden initiatives not only improves nutrition but also fosters positive food habits for a healthier life, reinforcing the connection between a healthy body, mind, and environment.”

Narrabri’s Kogil Street Preschool is looking forward to cooking from their own vegetable garden and sharing the produce with families. Educator Kate Rice hopes that growing and tasting food straight from the preschool’s own garden will cultivate children’s healthy eating habits.

Established in 2018, the HealthWISE Gift Fund provides small grants to support activities focused on disease prevention. Past initiatives supported include Tamworth Cycle Club bike skills sessions, a Moree Secondary College girls fitness program and a carnival for the Pilliga New Generation Football Club.

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