Christchurch: A food revolution from the ground up
by Steve Carter
Growing a better future.
That’s how the ‘Garden To Table’ website describes what their scheme aims to achieve. Rooted in the work of the Australian cook Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program, the New Zealand affiliate was started in 2008 by New Zealand food writer and cook Catherine Bell.
The philosophy is simple: change the way children approach and think about food. Diamond Harbour School is the first school in the South Island to participate in theprogramme and Principal Eddie Norgate is enthusiastic about the opportunities that stem from their involvement. “It’s about healthy eating and it’s about the community,” he says, “but the main thing I see out of it is the learning.”
The school already runs what Eddie describes as a “mini version” of the project. They have a small garden on the school grounds and, once a week, parents prepare a meal for the whole school using garden-fresh produce that has been grown on site. As Eddie sees it, “The main focus is on them being able to prepare and share and eat a meal together.”
There may have been some typical resistance from kids at some of the ‘exotic’ food that was being presented to them, but this apparently soon passed, their own direct inclusion in the process being an important eye-(and mouth-)opener. And at only $1 each for a fresh, healthy meal, it is perhaps unsurprising that, on a good day, the scheme will attract 85% take-up among the pupils.
Now, with an official Garden To Table curriculum to drive forward the work, and supported by grants from the Canterbury Community Trust and Fonterra, the future looks even more exciting and the opportunities that flow from it even wider. Involvement offers the chance to expand the current scope of the school garden into something more ambitious and, consequently, something with greater possibilities for learning, community and health.
The whole expansion was driven, as these things often are, by the passion of one parent. She so loved the idea of Garden To Table that she travelled up to Auckland to look at the scheme in action and then came back to make a presentation to the School Board. Neat alignments with recent changes to the school’s Strategic Plan meant that the scheme was adopted willingly.
Eddie paints a picture of what he sees as the future of the project: “We have a simple garden at the school already but we want to create a bigger one on a 650 square metre section and turn it into a community garden.” The enhanced garden will not only be a space for growing food but will also include its own watering system, art and sculptures, a seated area for the community to use, and even a new kitchen adapted from an old dental surgery on the section,
Of course, this is no simple task. To ensure that the project is successful and sustainable, the school needs to get ‘buy-in’ from staff, parents and the wider Diamond Harbour
community. Not just in the initial energy for creation of the new space but in longer-term maintenance. Eddie is adamant that, “We need people from the community to come and help out, teach the kids, maintain it in school holidays.”
What is also clear, however, is that this is precisely what will produce the wider benefits. The school gets to root itself more firmly in the community, relationships will establish between the kids and others who do not necessarily have kids at the school – for instance, community people with gardening, building or cooking skills – and the development of a community-owned space should result in better food security for a village that could very easily be cut off from the outside world in the event of a disaster such as the ones we have recently seen in the region.
These are big-picture accruals, of course. In the end, though, for Eddie it comes back to the school and the kids. Their involvement in every aspect of the growing and preparation of food means that they take home a much better understanding of where their food comes from and how to prepare and eat healthily and inexpensively.
This is key learning that Eddie is certain they will take back to their families and that they will carry with them into adulthood. Education for life.
Now that is what I call a food revolution.
For more information on the Garden To Table scheme, visit the website at http://www.gardentotable.org.nz/. If you are interested in finding out more about the Diamond
Harbour School initiative or offering support in any way, contact Principal Eddie Norgate at email@example.com
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SHAC – The Sustainable Habitat Challenge – is a network of architects, builders, engineers, designers, building scientists, students and young professionals interested in taking positive action in their communities today.
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What is permanent in this land of earthquakes? In San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 as a temporary building for the Panama-Pacific Exposition and still stands today as an icon of the city. From the cardboard cathedral to the convention centre – how long will they serve us?
“Simple buildings are key for affordability” said Canadian architect Brian McKay Lyons, recently interviewed on Nine to Noon with Kim Hill. Lyons, from Nova Scotia, says “simple buildings are what we farmers and fishermen build when we can’t afford to get things wrong”
This symposium brought together elements of the growing Regeneration movement – people working together to take positive action in their communities.
Community Rebuild – for the Whole House Reuse project Juliet Arnott
Community Development – Joshua Durrant, Jess Smale, Sophie Moore
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