Labor has pledged $6m to restore federal funding to The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, an initiative aimed at improving the health of young people in Australia.
The program was launched in response to the worsening issue of childhood obesity in Australia. The Foundation works with more than 1,600 early years’ centers, as well as primary and secondary schools to improve students’ education about healthy eating and its benefits.
The Foundation runs face-to-face professional development days that offer teachers the chance to get their hands dirty in the kitchen and garden and learn how to deliver “pleasurable food education”.
Responding to a youth health crisis
A recent world-first study by the University of Wollongong (UOW) revealed that children eat more food after watching unhealthy food advertising and don’t compensate by eating less at later meals.
Compounding this issue, a 2018 survey found that 57.6% of parents are concerned children may struggle to maintain a healthy weight in life and be at risk of serious disease (51.2%) as a result of poor food choices.
To combat this, the NSW Government is overhauling school canteen menus to ensure that fruit, vegetables and freshly made food make up at least 75% of food offered to young people on school grounds.
Labor’s pledge would mean that about 800 schools that have already implemented the Kitchen Garden program will receive federal funding. A further 1,200 schools and early learning centres would also be able to roll out the program.
Kitchen Garden Foundation CEO, Josephene Duffy, said Labor’s funding commitment would mean the Foundation could deepen the support to schools and services already running the Program, and broaden the reach of the Program to benefit more communities.
“The incidence of childhood obesity is increasing, with one in four Australian children now overweight or obese,” Duffy said.
“This makes for unwell, unhappy and disengaged children, and will most likely contribute to a future burden of disease that has enormous implications for our health, workforce and social services budgets.”
Duffy said the Kitchen Garden Program is a carefully designed model that, with investment from government, has the ability to “transform the obesogenic environment for families in every community in Australia”.
Stephanie Alexander AO said that of all her years influencing Australia’s food culture, the Kitchen Garden Program is the achievement she was most proud of.
“It is so sad to me that for so many children the experience of sitting around a table and sharing a meal is something they are not experiencing on a daily basis,” Alexander said.
“I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of our Kitchen Garden Program having this amazingly important injection of funds.”