Care for our common home

Manaakihia tō tātou kāinga From Garden To Table WelCom December 2019 ‘Grow, harvest, prepare, share’ is the motto for ‘Garden to Table’. It’s a programme founded in 2008 to teach…

Manaakihia tō tātou kāinga

From Garden To Table

WelCom December 2019

‘Grow, harvest, prepare, share’ is the motto for ‘Garden to Table’. It’s a programme founded in 2008 to teach children aged 7–10 years how to grow, harvest, cook and share food. The Garden to Table Trust has since seen thousands of children, in years three to six, go through the programme in 176 schools all across New Zealand.

Garden to Table helps children to discover a love for how to grow and prepare fresh food and teaches them to understand why eating healthy fresh food is important. The integrated-learning programme has been developed to provide real-life learning opportunities outside the classroom and to nurture gardening and cooking skills to last a lifetime says Celeste Hastings, principal at Holy Cross School, Miramar, Wellington.

Potting seedlings are Bella and Diya (front); and Nicolas, Albert and Phoenix with the wheelbarrow.

‘Holy Cross School embraced the programme in 2016 after being approached by the Trust. A vacant patch of land at the side of our school has been developed into a flourishing garden that enables the students to grow and harvest heathy food to prepare, eat together, and share with the community. An appreciation of gardening and understanding about healthy food has become a way of life for the students and we are generously supported by families, volunteers and local businesses in this mission.

‘The programme fits our values of faith, sharing, community, sustainability, and care for the environment. It provides ongoing and integrated learning-by-doing experiences that fit our core curriculum. The students record their experiences in their workbooks to take back to the classroom where it all fits with literacy, science, numeracy, maths.’

Generally, once a week the students come together to work in the garden and the kitchen. They talk about what they are going to harvest that day or relate to what’s happening in terms of the time of the year, both seasonally and culturally. 

Half class goes to the garden and half go to the kitchen – all under the supervision of an adult. They learn how dig, compost, prepare seedlings, use a wheelbarrow, secateurs, and how to harvest. 

In the kitchen, working in small groups, the students create a recipe and work out what they have to do in terms of reading, measuring, and preparing a simple dish. If there is a coinciding cultural event, such as Samoan Language Week, their menu will reflect this. 

‘Everyone then comes together, including those from the garden, and the prepared food gets put in the middle of the table to be shared. There’s a karakia or a blessing, a thank you to the volunteers, and some of the children might talk about what they have learned in the garden or the kitchen that day. The adults sit with the children as the food is shared and they talk over the meal as families should do,’ says Celeste.

Last year one of the students, Josh, received a Young Gardener of the Year award as part of the national Garden to Table programme. And this year two students, Tsion Medhane and Rebecca Zhu, won the local, then national ‘Root to Tip’ cooking competition, judged by Garden to Table’s ambassador and well-known chef, Al Brown. Their challenge was to create two vegetable-based dishes using locally-sourced seasonal ingredients that left little or zero waste. Tsion and Rebecca’s cheesy green risotto used florets, stalk and leaves of broccoli, with zero waste, followed by creamy rhubarb with a hint of lemon. The young winners were crowned at the national final in Wellington, which came after a round of regional cook-offs involving 500 children. They each won $1000 and the school won a years’ subscription for the programme. ‘We were really surprised and had to pinch ourselves. We thought we were dreaming,’ said Tsion and Rebecca.

Words and photos: Annette Scullion