Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program
All Australian schools are supported to deliver pleasurable food education, seeing children form positive food habits for life.
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (under 50 employees)
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Australia, a country of 7.692 million km²
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation originated and is based in Melbourne, Australia, from where we support schools and early childhood services across our country. Stephanie Alexander AO is Australian-born and committed to developing and improving food culture in our country. Our program reflects Australian seasons and climate zones, and is integrated with the Australian Curriculum. We strive to ensure our program also helps meet the objectives of national and state health and education policies and goals. Part of our vision is to customise the program to suit Australian Aboriginal communities, and to use the existing program to help bring Australian Aboriginal culture to all schools through the lens of native food practices.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Australia is a diverse country that has changed a great deal over the last 200 years. Our Aboriginal people have lived here for approximately 60,000 years. European colonisation began in 1788, and brought with it a disconnection from native food culture, crops and techniques.
Over the last 200 years many European and Asian cultures have migrated to Australia, bringing their food cultures with them. This has resulted in a generally multi-cultural population that provides many benefits, but which some rail against. We have yet to completely reconcile with our Aboriginal people, who experience ongoing health and education challenges resulting from European invasion, and who have never ceded sovereignty of this land.
Australia is a vast country that is sparsely populated - 24.6 million people principally living along the coastline, although there are many remote communities inland. There are three levels of government - national, state/territory and local. There are eight state/territory jurisdictions and 537 local governments. We are governed under a Westminster-based democratic system and Australia is a Commonwealth member.
The size means we have different time zones across the country as well as different climate zones (tropical, subtropical, dry, temperate, cool). While summer, autumn, winter and spring have been introduced through European settlement, an Indigenous seasonal calendar includes six different seasons.
The main agricultural crops grown in Australia are wheat, coarse grains, rice, oilseeds, grain legumes, sugarcane, cotton, fruits, grapes, tobacco, and vegetables. Sheep and cattle are the principal livestock. While there is a strong tradition of valuing farmers and farming culture, farmers struggle with ongoing drought, a de-valuing of goods, and resulting economic and mental health issues, especially in remote areas.
(See www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/publications/insights/snapshot-of-australian-agriculture for more information)
Australian food culture has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Positive developments include embracing food of different cultures - Italian and Chinese cuisine for instance is prevalent in major cities and country towns alike due to historically high levels of migration from these countries. Continued migration from a vast array of places sees - especially in major cities - cultural neighbourhoods of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Greek, Turkish, Indian and Sudanese (just as examples). So in the cities, many cultural cuisines and food products are available and celebrated.
At the same time, our obesity rates continue to increase, due to an array of complex causes. Currently one in three adults and one in four children are overweight or obese, and these rates are significantly higher in areas experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage, as well as Indigenous populations. Only 7% of Australian adults and 5% of children meet the recommended guideline for daily vegetable intake.
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Currently, obesity rates are increasing and there is a general disconnect regarding where food comes from. Urban sprawl has taken over local arable growing land, and suburbs are planned in a way that contributes to the obesogenic environment. Many families live in areas where there is inadequate public transport and accessing fresh produce is difficult. These suburbs are dominated by fast food chains and marketing of unhealthy food products. Families rely more and more on packaged and processed food, and many don't cook from scratch or eat meals at a table. The simple activity of cooking and sharing a meal together is being lost and people are seeing cooking more as a chore than a pleasurable activity. In families experiencing economic disadvantage, the default is to purchase cheap processed products as they lack the education, experience, facilities or desire to cook nutritious, tasty meals form scratch.
There is much debate over whether the challenges we face are a result of personal choice or systemic issues. Obesity is not classified as a disease and is largely viewed as the result of poor lifestyle choices. There is also debate over whether food education is a parent's responsibility or society's. The problem seems overwhelming as there are so many contributing factors, and so may players and agents involved in the system. We are also experiencing an epidemic of loneliness and increasing mental health disorders.
In 2050, following the current trajectory, we envisage that we will be grappling with the environmental and health effects of climate change, a growing population living in obesogenic environments, and communities who are disconnected from each other due to distance and transport issues and the impact of a technologically-based society.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our vision is to bring pleasurable food education to all Australian primary schools.
Pleasurable food education is a fun, hands-on approach to teaching children about fresh, seasonal, delicious food so they can form positive food habits for life. The approach engages children and their families, connects communities and positively influences local food cultures.
Delivered through a kitchen garden program, pleasurable food education sees children developing self-confidence, life skills and a healthy relationship with food.
In the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, children grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal, delicious food in their school or early childhood service, in order to form positive food habits for life. The program uses a whole-school or whole-service approach, and is flexible. Schools and early childhood services can adapt the program to their needs, and use it to engage families and communities. It is designed to be integrated with the curriculum and sustained long term.
Pleasurable food education has an array of health, wellbeing, education and community benefits, and is designed to achieve longstanding change in the food habits of people in Australia.
Bringing pleasurable food education to all Australian schools will have multiple integrated effects:
Australian children will be provided with effective, engaging food education regardless of their background, culture, socioeconomic status or geographic location.
The program will build capacity in local educators, who will be trained to deliver the program and thereby build and share food skills.
Local communities will contribute to building each school's kitchen garden program, thereby galvanising those communities around fresh local food.
Parents and families will be engaged in the kitchen garden program via it's tangible, pleasurable nature, and the pleasurable food education philosophy will influence home life.
The school will become the site of urban agriculture and hub of community engagement in areas otherwise lacking these elements.
Schools will form local 'clusters' and thereby share challenges, successes, opportunities and learning - constantly building capacity and momentum, and engaging other people and agencies in their kitchen garden program.
Schools will be connected with local growers, farmers, producers and retailers to 'close the loop' on the food production cycle and integrate with the local food system.
Aboriginal culture and education will be enhanced and delivered in schools through analysing local traditions, accessing local Elders and creating resources and activities that celebrate Aboriginal culture through the lens of food.
Local obesogenic environments will be transformed as communities adopt the pleasurable food education philosophy and make fresh food and water the norm.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Schools, as the most permanent physical sites in a community and the hub of ongoing personal interaction, as well as generally the longest government intervention in a person'ts life, are the agents of change. Communities rely on the school as a site of community engagement, and are inspired and galvanised by the school's commitment to good food. Local government, businesses and groups invest in the school's kitchen garden program because they can see the benefits, and joy, of participating. Children are enthused and engaged by the program and take this enthusiasm home to their families, and with them throughout their lives. There is wide, embedded and deep understanding of and respect for where food comes from, and good food is celebrated and invested in. All government policies and plans, at all three levels of government, are analysed and reviewed with health and access to fresh food in mind. All children are able to access the food they require to live happy, healthy and resilient lives, and above all take joy in and love fresh, seasonal, delicious food.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Environment: In the kitchen garden program, children are taught about the natural world in a hands-on way that includes learning about weather, climate, seasons, soil, plant life, insect life and bird life. They also learn environmental sustainability practices such as building healthy soils, composting, organic pest management, crop protection, water conservation, seed saving, recycling and local food production. In the kitchen they learn waste-minimisation practices such as root-to-tip cooking, preserving and cooking only as much as you need.
Diets: Diets are transformed as children are shown how to cook their own fresh food in simple ways that taste great. They learn to develop their own palates, and are provided with incremental skills building that engages them in learning how to cook meals from the produce available. They are empowered to anlyse the food messages that are broadcast to them, and make up their own minds about the choices that are right for them, based on having all the information, as well as the skills, understanding and desire, to make positive choices.
Economics: The total annual direct cost of overweight and obesity in Australia in 2005 was $21 billion (https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/192/5/cost-overweight-and-obesity-australia). The kitchen garden program is a cost-effective measure designed to prevent the issues that contribute to these costs.
Culture: Australian culture can still be divisive regarding culture, religion, language, class and gender stereotypes.The kitchen garden program helps to break down these barriers by bringing people together through a shared love of children and food. We are looking to deeply and widely help improve Australian food culture.
Technology: Technology will be developed and utilised to connect schools and educators together in clusters, and facilitate ongoing, sustainable, safe and non-onerous connection. Technology will also be used to capture, develop and share food education knowledge across our vast country, to time-poor teachers and families. Technology will also be used to gather data and evidence of impact to continuously monitor, evaluate and improve the program model, and capture, distribute and celebrate stories of success.
Policy: Governments will be provided with evidence of impact and benefit that helps them see 'what works', and what policies need to be revised or adopted in relation to food culture. Existing policies across health, education, agriculture and human services will be looked at in terms of how the kitchen garden program can help meet objectives across a wide array of needs.
All people engaged with food and agriculture in local communities will be invited to engage in the schools' kitchen garden programs, and schools will contribute to their local food culture and systems. For example, and existing educational resource that SAKGF currently provides to schools sets out an assignment o for students to investigate and analyse their local food system. Other lessons look at generating community engagement through the school kitchen garden program, and transforming school fundraising practices from relying on re-selling junk food to celebrating, distributing and sharing fresh delicious food. All kitchen garden schools are provided with advice and guidance on reviewing their local product and human resources and ask for assistance to build their program form their local community. Local community agents want to contribute because they can see the tangible and joyous outcomes of their contribution, and are more connected to their local communities through the activity.
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