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Kids growing strong with Garden to Table

The charitable trust Garden to Table is all about getting tamariki out of the classroom and into the garden.

Primary and intermediate schoolchildren are given opportunities to grow, harvest, prepare and cook yummy food.

Set up in 2008, the organisation operates nationwide and has 19 West Auckland schools and around 2,000 children participating. ‘We help schools develop Garden to Table programmes tailored to local needs,’ says Sarah Rodgers, Grants Manager. ‘Our curriculum-linked food education programme takes learning out of the classroom.’ She adds that it empowers Kiwi kids to grow and cook their own fresh, seasonal, and environmentally sustainable kai. What’s more, there are plenty of opportunities for whānau to get involved as volunteer gardeners and cooks.

Kids love getting their hands dirty. Whether planting and harvesting in the garden or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Garden to Table offers real hands-on experiences. Even better, the kids enjoy all that delicious kai with a shared meal.

According to Sarah, the programme delivers a range of long-life benefits and skills to our young people. ‘Tamariki build skills and knowledge to grow and cook fresh kai. They also learn to care for the environment, establishing foundations for lifelong healthy habits,’ says Sarah.

She adds that children develop practical skills, with some earning a wheelbarrow licence through the programme!

Garden to Table also supports classroom teaching. Reading recipes and measuring ingredients provide real-world opportunities for students to use their maths and literacy learning.

Avondale Intermediate joined Garden to Table in 2021 and is already reaping the rewards of the programme. The school now has a fantastic, fruitful garden following a real community effort involving scores of volunteers, local builders and landscapers. Furthermore, excess produce is set to be shared with Kai Avondale – a food rescue programme that feeds the local community. It's a great success story showing how the benefits of Garden to Table extend far beyond the school.

As a charity, Garden to Table relies on donations and fundraising. Sarah says that support for salary costs is often hard to come by.

However, funding from the Your West Support Fund has gone towards expenses related to the West Auckland regional coordinator. ‘Our regional coordinators are vital to the programme’s success,’ declares Sarah. She says they offer schools training, resources, support and guidance and help them develop their own programmes.

Now, even more children can join in all the fun. As one student said, “What a day! I had so much fun and can’t wait until my next Garden to Table class”.