Schools are teaching children to grow and cook healthy food in hopes of stopping the spread of Australia’s obesity plague.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon on Wednesday opened a kitchen garden at Bondi Public School in Sydney’s east, as part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.
The $12.8 million program will be extended to up to 190 government schools across Australia, with each receiving $60,000 to establish or enhance kitchens and gardens.
“Developing healthy eating, a love of food and an understanding of growing and preparing food early in life, will give the next generation the skills necessary to help avoid lifestyle related chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease,” Roxon told reporters.
“It’s a great way to introduce kids to nature. Tackling obesity is not always about saying no.”
One in four Australian children is overweight or obese and it’s estimated nearly half of young Australians will be overweight by 2025.
Renowned chef Alexander said although the program was focused primarily on children learning about food and eating it, it also gave them a wide range of other skills.
“I challenge anyone who is still a critic of this program to come to one of these schools, see how these children are affected, and not be changed,” she said.
So far, 41 schools are taking part in the program, and another 47 will join in the second round, launched on Wednesday.
Roxon praised Bondi Public as a model for the program, saying it would also serve as a training centre for staff.
Roxon and Alexander were joined at the school by the program’s NSW ambassador, chef Kylie Kwong, with former Liberal leader and local MP Malcolm Turnbull also lending support.