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Palmerston North Kindergarten Lunch Programme

Palmerston North Kindergarten Lunch Programme

Programme was initiated following the Awesome Awapuni Day where the staff at the kindergarten spoke to one of the event organisers about how they would like to provide free lunches for the children.

They already had a vegetable plot and saw how much the children enjoyed growing food to eat and wanted to expand on this.

There is extensive evidence to show how eating habits can be positively influenced during childhood and also there have been numerous nutrition interventions aimed at young children that have shown to improve their food intake.

The aim of the intervention was three-fold;
- To provide a free nutritious lunch for all children at the kindy (to include vegetables and fruit and dairy products).

- To encourage the children to increase their intake of vegetables and fruit.

- To pilot a ‘healthy eating’ intervention for pre-school children that could be adopted by other pre-schools throughout NZ.

In addition to providing the lunches, a number of approaches were utilised to encourage increased vegetable and fruit consumption. The approaches taken were based on interventions that had been shown to be successful;

- Encouraging the children to help with planting, growing and harvesting vegetables from the kindy vegetable plot and using them to prepare their meals with (process cooking).

- Providing education to the children about fruit and vegetables including; what they are, where they come from (how they grow plus where they can be bought), their health benefits and the digestive process.

- Providing the children with the opportunity to try different fruits and vegetables.

- Using rewards (stickers) to encourage children to try / consume more fruits and vegetables.

- Providing free cooking classes for the parents.

In addition to this a ‘food corner’ has been set up in the kindy which includes a large display of vegetables and fruits on the wall plus an area where the children sit down for their meals and where the process cooking can take place.

The evaluation of the success of the intervention has been / will be done both formally and informally and includes the following;

- Three lots of 24-hour food diary questionnaires for each of the children at baseline and at the end of the intervention.

- A fruit and vegetable food frequency questionnaire at baseline and one to two months after the child has left the kindy / six months after the end of the intervention (whichever is sooner).

- The use of a daily sticker chart to visualise the consumption of fruit and vegetables for each child.

- Documentation following each of the tasting sessions as to which fruit and vegetables each of the children tried.

- Documentation of gardening and process cooking sessions.

In addition, the staff and volunteers working on the project were asked for feedback about the project. Written feedback was provided after the teaching sessions, documenting how the children responded to the sessions. Informal interviews were conducted with the kindy staff in week five and will be conducted again in week eight. Feed-back was provided following the cooking sessions and suggestions for improvements made.

Within the first two weeks of the start of the project, staff at the kindy started to notice a change in eating habits occurring. The students running the tasting sessions have noted that more and more of the children are willing to try out the novel fruit and vegetables. The children have quickly grasped the information provided to them regarding fruits and vegetables and have become interested in talking about food.

ENDS

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