In a region well known for its local, home-grown, quality produce, Chaplain Ronnie Timperon is helping to empower young people with the knowledge of how to eat and live healthy.
When approached by a local parent in late 2013, who worked as a chef in a local restaurant, to help her establish a Kitchen Garden at Tin Can Bay State School, Chappy Ronnie (pictured, left) jumped at the chance as she had already been looking for ways to promote the importance of a healthy diet which includes fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We soon realised how enthusiastic the students were in wanting to learn how to grow and harvest fresh veggies,” Ronnie says.
It was around this time that they heard about the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation which has been instrumental in introducing kitchen gardens in over 800 schools across Australia.
“This program is part of a growing trend around the world to teach young people about the benefits of growing and cooking vegetables. Well-known chef, Jamie Oliver, recently started a global petition calling on the leaders and governments of all G20 countries to make practical food education a compulsory part of every school curriculum,” explains Ronnie.
To get this kitchen garden idea off the ground, Ronnie and the team had to organise a stakeholders meeting to which they invited representatives from local organisations and various Government departments and shared the Kitchen Garden vision with them in order to encourage involvement (pictured, right).
“We were encouraged by the number and enthusiasm of people who attended the meeting,” she says.
“By July we had a team of volunteers at Tin Can Bay School ready to be involved in garden and kitchen classes, committed kitchen and garden coordinators, support from the Department of Education and the involvement of the Department of Employment & Training through a Work for the Dole project that would provide labour to maintain and enlarge the gardens.”
The official opening at Tin Can Bay State School came after months of preparations and the event was attended by special guest, Costa Georgiadis (picture, left), host of ABC’s Gardening Australia and SBS’s Costa’s Garden Odyssey. His unique style and enthusiasm for the project was contagious for all those who participated in this program launch.
By the time Term 3 2014 rolled around, classes of Grade 6 students were hands-on in the garden learning how to grow their own produce.
“Students spend 3 weeks in the garden and in the fourth week use produce that they have grown to make healthy, tasty food which they share together,” explains Chappy Ronnie.
Throughout 2015, the Kitchen Garden has gone from strength to strength. During the year, there were 4 classes involved in weekly garden and kitchen classes, plus regular visits from other classes whose teachers love bringing their students down to the garden to get out of the occasional stuffiness of the classroom. The school now employs a Kitchen Garden Coordinator three days a week to facilitate the classes, who also works with a number of high school students, giving them the opportunity to learn the practical skills necessary to create and care for a sustainable garden.
The benefits of these Kitchen Gardens are obvious to Ronnie, as she gets to work alongside the students each week in the garden and they get the opportunity to share some of what’s happening in their life.
“As a chaplain, I have found the kitchen garden program to be a wonderful way to get to know students by working alongside them in a non-threatening environment. This creates opportunities to establish relationships built on trust where students feel comfortable enough to share their concerns. Students who often struggle to learn in a traditional classroom situation enjoy the practical aspects of working in a garden. The growth in their confidence and knowledge is evident by their enthusiasm to spend time in the garden,” Ronnie explains.
“Students are being taught skills that will go with them and their families into the future. It is also a great way to get to know parents and members of local organisations and get them involved at the school.”
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