A 'kitchen garden' for the Preschool

18th January 2023

Barraba Preschool gets a kitchen garden

"The staff at Barraba Preschool are thrilled to be participating in the HealthWISE kitchen garden program. We have been planning to implement a kitchen garden into our daily program and this grant will help us achieve this," Katie Shadbolt said.

Local early childhood centres have been given a share of $65,000 in small grants to aid in the creation of kitchen gardens.

HealthWISE has gifted 15 centres in the New England North West region of NSW and another two from the Darling Downs and West Moreton regions of QLD up to $4000 each to provide resources for building kitchen gardens and membership in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. HealthWISE aims to support children to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh seasonal food and create positive food habits for life.

Katie Shadbolt said "Our goal is to design a learning environment that educates children about food and helps them to form positive food habits for life. The program will naturally support sustainable learning for children as they will learn how to interact with and care for the natural environment."

“We know that fruit and vegetable intake is a key factor in preventing most illnesses, yet the majority of Australians, including children, consume far less than the recommended number of servings per day – especially in regional areas,” HealthWISE preventative health officer Kritika Jain explained.

“There is evidence that exposing children to a variety of fruits and vegetables in early childhood and engaging them in the process of growing their own produce can increase habitual consumption of these foods throughout life and prevent major illnesses.”

Kitchen garden initiatives have led to improvements in child nutritional status, food security, and fruit and vegetable consumption. Gardening can be an excellent form of therapy for conditions as wide ranging as autism spectrum disorder and childhood cancer. It provides sensory input, helps improve fine motor skills and coordination and encourages outdoor physical activity.

The grants came from the HealthWISE gift fund, through which the local non-profit supports community projects that promote health and wellbeing.

The fund has previously supported Pilliga New Generation Football Club, Tamworth Cycle junior skills sessions, a Moree Secondary College girls fitness program and the Gomeroi Gaaynggal Centre’s Indigenous childhood study.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation memberships will guide the centres through the building process.

Following an enthusiastic response from local early childhood centres for the kitchen garden program, $15,000 was added to the existing fund late last year. This will allow funding for smaller centres, and will also support the children to explore Aboriginal cultural learnings of native plants and food.