This article was supplied by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, based on experience from its successful Healthy Kids Advisors initiative.
The Healthy Kids Advisors initiative prides itself on community involvement. Delivered by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and supported by the Victorian Government and Australian Government, this community engagement initiative is active in 13 Victorian communities..
In collaboration with local health promoters, Council and the community, our Healthy Kids Advisors offer free support and simple ideas to boost healthy and delicious food and drink in schools, sports clubs, after-hours care and council-run facilities. We connect with student groups, community advocates and — importantly — parents to lean on local knowledge and listen to the needs of each school, organisation and region we support.
Together, we have instigated creative engagement strategies to excite and involve parents in new directions around healthy eating in schools.
Coleraine Primary School in Southern Grampians use a closed-access Facebook page for parents to communicate school updates. The Facebook page is a place for student action too.
To promote new, healthy changes to their canteen menu and fundraising efforts, students record short videos to walk parents through the behind-the-scenes action. This personalised opportunity to learn about new school shifts creates a deeper connection to excite families about new changes.
The Student Representative Councils at St Joseph’s Primary School and Resurrection Primary School, both in Springvale, have worked with their Healthy Kids Advisor and teaching staff to design flyers aimed at parents to promote the healthy, tasty range of new canteen options. The flyers will be taken home in their lunch boxes to spark conversations around tasty, easy lunch alternatives.
Families from St. Mel’s Primary School in Shepparton have recently received handwritten invitations to a school wellbeing event called Mind, Body & Soul Day. Students were excited to pen invitations, partly because they had a major hand in designing the event program.
On the day of this event, students will host stalls and activities on topics such as healthy eating, mindfulness and active living. By having a student-led approach to the communications and festivities, the school hopes there will be an increased attendance of parents and siblings at the event.
Still in Shepparton, Grahamvale Primary School regularly invites groups of parents into the school grounds for fortnightly ‘working bees and cuppas’. This social opportunity has been a fun way to drive new interest, group together and plan a reinvigoration of the school’s edible garden space. Their hard work has paid off — the parent group has just been awarded a $1000 Landcare grant. Their next working bee will focus on using the funds to design a new outdoor classroom space.
Keeping with the theme of outdoor gatherings, one Healthy Kids Advisor in the Central Goldfields region is encouraging schools to consider building a small-scale wood-fire pizza oven. With a bit of elbow grease and community spirit, a communal cooking space could be used for fun school events and made available for school families to use in the evenings and on weekends.
In regional Buloke, our local Healthy Kids Advisor observed a fun event at Charlton College. The teaching staff invited parents to visit their Kitchen Garden Program in action. Parents enjoyed seeing the children showing off their food preparation skills, sharing a warm meal together and enjoying a garden walk around the veggie patch.
Everyone in attendance was impressed and inspired by the program in action. It’s hoped this new awareness will encourage more of the school community to feel confident and knowledgeable in lending a hand in future kitchen and garden activities.
In central Victoria, Timor Primary School have rallied up parent support with a traditional call-out in the school newsletter asking for extra hands for kitchen duties and the garden club. As an extra boost of support, school staff complete the Working With Children (WWC) paperwork with new volunteers to ease the administration barrier.
Helping with the paperwork for a WWC card overcomes a common obstacle to parent volunteers jumping on board. The same process could be applied to other certification requirements such as food handling certificates or first aid accreditation.
We’ve found that most parents love to share recipes and simple tips on preparing lunchbox items, after-school snacks and family meals. We have seen schools jump at the chance to create their own school cookbook filled with family recipes and kids’ favourites. You’ll be surprised how many new parent voices you’ll hear from!
If a volume of recipes seems like a big task, consider looking at a smaller version. A 12-month calendar offering student drawings, recipes and lunchbox inspiration for each month is a manageable special project that’s a useful fundraiser too.
About the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative
The Healthy Kids Advisors initiative is delivered by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and supported by the Victorian Government and Australian Government.
This community engagement initiative is active in 13 priority communities to spread pleasurable food education and encourage participation in the state-wide Vic Kids Eat Well movement.
In collaboration with local health promoters, Council and community, our Advisors offer free support and simple ideas to boost healthy and delicious food and drink in schools, sports clubs, after-hours care and council-run facilities.