School leaders encourage healthy eating and physical activity to meet the challenges of poor diet, child obesity and diabetes by supporting nutrition classes, making changes to canteen menus, providing parents with snack and lunch ideas and joining their schools in programs such as Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden.
Better health is a primary objective and there are other positive results.
Early in November, the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL-Victoria) honoured Ms Alexander as an outstanding leader. She said the award reflected the genuine educational value of the Kitchen Garden Program.
Stephanie said that since establishing her pilot kitchen garden in Collingwood, Melbourne, in 2001, 77,000 children in 744 schools have been learning literacy through reading recipes, numeracy through charting bean growth and sustainability through studying the seasons; encouraging children to learn through real-life, engaging experience works for teachers, students and families.
Poor student diet has been a long term problem. The American chef, restaurateur, activist, and author, Alice Waters, is credited with starting her Edible Schoolyard Project in California in 1995. Governments in Australia began providing schools with advice and programs more than a decade ago.
But the raw figures do not look good. One in four Victorians are said to be obese. The Victorian Department of Health says obesity in Australia will require long-term commitment, cooperation and innovation within all levels and sectors of the community. According to Diabetes Australia, there are some 280 new cases of diabetes every day.
Encouraging schools to support healthy eating, the World Health Organisation says that a health-promoting school is where the school community works together to protect student health.