Stephanie Alexander SAKGF
Westgarth Primary has been one of the Victorian leaders in the establishment of a kitchen garden program under the guidance of renowned food expert Stephanie Alexander.
Westgarth Primary's innovative kitchen garden program provides pleasurable food education for young children. Created in conjunction with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and Go For Your Life, the program aims to positively influence our students' food choices.
With the help of students and many school parents as well as a special state government grant, Westgarth Primary established its garden in 2007. It's adjacent to our kitchen facilities. Stephanie Alexander (pictured at above with Westgarth students) has been closely involved with the introduction of the program and the creation of the garden.
The program allows students across Years 3 to 6 spend a minimum of 40 minutes in the vegetable garden. They also spend one and a half hours each week in a kitchen classroom preparing and sharing meals created from their produce. The project employs one part-time specialist staff member to run these sessions.
The creation and care of this kitchen garden teaches students about the natural world, about its beauty and how to care for it, how best to use resources and develop an appreciation of the wide range of possibilities for both the cook and the gardener.
- We stress pleasure, flavour and texture by encouraging talk and thinking that uses all of the senses.
- We do not describe food to children using the word 'healthy' as the main descriptor.
- We reinforce techniques over and over so that the children are actually able to cook simple dishes or plant seeds at home.
- Menus are planned around seasonal availability.
- We seek to expand the culinary horizons for children and present cultural differences as fascinating rather than strange.
- We seek to expand the children's vocabulary for describing flavours and textures and plant families and names.
- We use fresh ingredients at their peak – for example, herbs should not be past their season, beans should not be overgrown and tough.
- The cooking of raw fruit and vegetables should be timed with great care – we don't want to present children with food that is unpalatable.
- The garden crops underpin kitchen planning - lots of basil is likely to lead to a pesto-making session; lots of green tomatoes to chutney or pickles. Menu planning will take account of growing timelines.
- Everyone comes together around a table at the end of the cooking to share the meal.
There are two unique factors about the kitchen garden program. The first is the intrinsic link between the garden, the kitchen and the table. The emphasis is on learning about food and about eating it. No part of the Program can exist without the other. The second is the project is embedded in the curriculum. It is a compulsory part of the school's program for four years of a child's life.
In both the kitchen and the garden the children work in small groups with the support of a volunteer under the supervision of the specialist and the classroom teacher (the average class sizes range from 20 to 25 students; there are usually 4 – 5 volunteers per class).
Kitchen Garden Resources
We publish a range of kitchen garden recipes on this site.
Read more about kitchen gardens at the Department of Education site.
Our thanks to Stephanie Alexander for her involvement. Kitchen garden images courtesy Randy Larcombe.