Lush vegetable gardens have sprouted up at schools in Cairns, Townsville and Mackay as part of an exciting new nutrition program that’s encouraging children to eat their daily quota of fruit and vegetables.
The Healthy Eats program is being delivered by Life Education Queensland and funded by the Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) and features a cheerful lunch bag mascot called Frankie Fresh.
With less than ten percent of Queenslanders meeting the recommended guidelines for daily fruit and vegetable consumption, the Healthy Eats program aims to encourage children to eat two pieces of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day, teaching the mantra – ‘eat two and five to help you thrive’.
Life Education health and nutrition officer Matt Dowling has been busy delivering the program at 17 schools in the state’s north, with children learning why nutritious food is essential for a healthy body, and how to prepare easy and tasty wholesome snacks and recipes.
Life Education CEO Michael Fawsitt recently visited Mackay’s Slade Point State School where the Healthy Eats program is being taught to Years 4 – 6 students. He said it was rewarding to see the program achieving such tangible results.
“What really excites me about the program is the way in which it involves the wider school community. We encouraged the school to start a vegetable garden and facilitated support through Woolworths, which provided a local grant, and Bunnings who provided equipment. The school built and planted the garden last term, involving their Prep students. They are so proud of it and look forward to building another one,” Mr Fawsitt said.
Mr Fawsitt said Queensland Health data from 2018 showed 243,000 children did not meet recommendations for fruit consumption, while 805,000 children did not meet the recommended daily vegetable intake.
“This is a vital phase in children’s lives and eating healthy at this age is so important for their healthy development and to reduce their risk of preventable chronic disease in the future.”
The Healthy Eats program also works with local school tuckshops to improve canteen menus and boost children’s nutrition, with many schools already noticing that students are choosing healthier items from the tuckshop menu.
Slade Point State School’s Diverse Learners co-ordinator Kylie Armstrong said the Healthy Eats program had delivered big benefits to the school.
“We have created a real circle of healthiness at the school with veggies from the garden being used in the tuckshop and the scraps from the preppies fruit snack going to compost and the compost feeding our worm farms,” she said.
“The children are really getting a clear idea where their food comes from and the parents are being encouraged to take part, too.
NQPHN Area Manager Jennifer Burnham said the Healthy Eats program had been designed by and for the community, forging strong relationships with a range of partners including schools, community groups, sporting clubs and local stores.
“The Healthy Eats program aims to change community attitudes and behaviour and create environments that support children and families to make healthier choices,” Ms Burnham said.
“Research shows us that healthy habits and behaviours learnt in childhood, transition into adulthood. This project is looking to create healthy environments – at home, at school, and in the community – which make choosing the healthy choice, the easy choice.”