The backyard garden of my childhood in Perth was no different from any other in the suburb. It grew Peach, Apricot, Plum, Almond, Orange, Lemon and Mandarin trees and the large vegetable garden grew broad beans, corn, peas, french beans, spinach, tomato, lettuce, carrots, potato and strawberries. Only the ‘new Australian’s” gardens in their quarters grew anything different. It would take years for us to embrace their cuisine. But this is the way it was; you grew your own food. That notion seemed to fade out for a number of years, but now there is a resurgence of backyard vegetable plots, and even apartment dwellers are not missing out.
City gardens, community gardens and balcony gardens are becoming popular and the Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program now has over 140 Australian schools involved with the thought that if you can teach children to grow food and learn to cook it, they will have a better appreciation of a healthier diet.
A study conducted by two Melbourne Universities credits the Kitchen Garden Program with creating positive attitude changes in primary school children across Australia. It found that 39% of children reporting they would try new foods, compared with 26% at the start of the Program. 71% of children in participating schools reported they enjoyed cooking, compared with just 50% at non-participating schools. The Program was also considered by teachers to be particularly effective in engaging ‘non-academic learners’.
At present there is only one Cairns school participating in this program and thanks to Annie Wolff at Cairns West Primary School, students there are benefiting from the Kitchen Garden Program. It would be good to see more schools join in.
Whether it’s a school garden, community or backyard garden, growing your own food has something for the whole family, not only the healthy food, but for family interaction.