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Garden To Table Looks To Expand Into Preschools To Combat Pressing Social, Health & Environmental Issues For Tamariki

Garden to Table Charitable Trust is looking to expand its popular growing and cooking programme into early childhood education centres (ECEs), with the first new garden beds installed at a kindergarten in Massey, Auckland, this week.

The Trust provides hands-on learning support to around 300 primary schools across the country, with over 30,000 children growing and cooking over a million meals a year. Its new initiative into ECEs will see tamariki between the ages of two and five and their whānau learn to grow, harvest and cook fruit and vegetables in a tailored programme that links to the ECE curriculum.

Ani Brunet, Garden to Table Charitable Trust Chief Executive says “By getting young children gardening and cooking, we are investing in their future. This will help achieve longer term health, social, economic and environmental benefits for tamariki, whānau and hapori (community). Imagine if children learn to grow and cook from ECE and primary right through to secondary school. This is our dream, so that growing, cooking and sharing delicious affordable and nutritious kai becomes a normal part of everyday life for tamariki and whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

The demand for Garden to Table has increased rapidly over the past few years as parents, whānau and educators recognise the educational, social and environmental impacts of teaching children to grow and cook kai. Schools value the hands-on and real-world approach to learning that benefits ākonga right across subjects from maths and science to literacy and art.

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“You’re never too young to experience the pride and joy of growing and preparing your own fruit and veggies. We’re delighted to be nurturing and empowering some of New Zealand’s youngest gardeners and chefs. Learning where food comes from shifts the way children think about food and encourages healthy habits at a formative age. It’s incredible to see what young children can achieve!

“Supporting ECEs to run Garden to Table programmes is about imparting lifelong knowledge in our tamariki to foster resilient communities. Parents get involved and benefits travel home, and ripple into the wider community. Social connections are strengthened by people coming together through kai.

“Teaching tamariki about gardening and food helps build strong foundations for lifelong healthy habits to combat today’s pressing health, educational, social and environmental challenges,” says Ani.

To mark the expansion of Garden to Table’s programme, a team of T&G Global volunteers joined the charity this week at Colwill Kindergarten in Massey to build their first garden beds and plant fruit and veggie seedlings along with the kids and parents.

T&G’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Adrienne Sharp says the charity plays a fundamental role in growing healthy futures for New Zealand’s tamariki.

“At T&G our purpose is to grow healthier futures, and Garden to Table is doing amazing work to get kids excited about fresh nutritious food through growing and cooking their own fruit and vegetables.

“Thanks to the hard mahi of Garden to Table and many committed schools and community volunteers, thousands of kids over the past decade have learned how to grow their own food and be inspired to transform those ingredients into meals they can prepare and enjoy.

“The success of the Garden to Table programme shows the value of providing a hands-on learning experience and we’re thrilled to continue partnering with Ani and her team as they enter this exciting new phase for the programme,” says Adrienne.

Ani Brunet said “It’s very fitting that T&G who have been our partners for such an enduring time, are rolling up their sleeves to help us put in the first garden that seeds this new chapter in ECEs. They have supported us whole-heartedly in the primary school space, and we are humbled and stoked to share this new beginning with them.”

The Trust hopes to adapt its programme and launch into early childhood centres based on learnings from the pilot at Colwill Kindergarten, in Massey, Auckland. The ECE pilot project is made possible thanks to funding from the Jenkins Foundation. Having support from the Trust’s partner T&G Global, who are celebrating 10 years of partnership with Garden to Table this year, is a huge help and a celebration of a new beginning.

T&G Global first partnered with the Garden to Table Trust in 2013. Since then the number of schools involved has grown from 21 to 300, with more than 30,000 children involved and more than 1 million meals enjoyed across the country.

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