A new project that gives local children hands-on experience in growing, cooking and eating more fruit and vegetables has the potential to help slow obesity and prevent diseases.
The Garden to Table (GTT) programme gives primary school children access to regular vegetable-gardening, and teaches them to cook meals from the produce they grow.
Along with the Tindall Foundation, Warehouse and Wellington City Council the project is supported in Wellington by the Healthy Futures charitable trust set up by CCDHB and Otago University staff.
“Healthy Futures was born from our concern about the increasing number of children we see who are developing serious – but preventable – diet and physical activity-related health conditions,” said CCDHB diabetes nurse and Healthy Futures executive officer Tess Clarke.
“GTT teaches children to grow and cook their own food. It gives them the knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices, which will help to reduce risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes.”
In 2015 Healthy Futures commissioned the CCDHB’s Centre for Endocrine, Diabetes and Obesity Research, Department of Medicine, and the University of Otago Wellington to conduct a three-year evaluation of the GTT programme in four Wellington Schools.
“The connections between obesity, food choices, and food preparation skills are well-established,” said GTT Trust executive officer Linda Taylor.
“Medical experts dealing with the obesity epidemic have suggested bringing back home economics as one of the best investments society could make.”
While there was no significant reduction in BMI of the children, the evaluation did find that participating children ate more vegetables and less junk food.
“We also discovered that children got a lot from the project,” said Olivia Boyd, garden specialist at Holy Cross and Newtown Schools.
“They really enjoy the programme. They learn practical gardening and food preparation skills, but also the importance of community – to share and enjoy nutritious food together.”