Montmorency Primary was awarded a significant Department of Education and Early Childhood Development grant to establish a kitchen garden program under the guidance of renowned food expert Stephanie Alexander.
Montmorency Primary’s innovative kitchen garden program provides pleasurable food education for young children. Created in conjunction with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and Go For Your Life, the program aims to positively influence our students’ food choices.
There are two unique factors about the kitchen garden program. The first is the intrinsic link between the garden, the kitchen and the table. The emphasis is on learning about food and about eating it. No part of the Program can exist without the other. The second is the project is embedded in the curriculum. It is a compulsory part of the school’s program for four years of a child’s life.
• We stress pleasure, flavour and texture by encouraging talk and thinking that uses all of the senses.
• We do not describe food to children using the word ‘healthy’ as the main descriptor.
• We reinforce techniques over and over so that the children are actually able to cook simple dishes or plant seeds at home.
• Menus are planned around seasonal availability.
• We seek to expand the culinary horizons for children and present cultural differences as fascinating rather than strange.
• We seek to expand the children’s vocabulary for describing flavours and textures and plant families and names.
• We use fresh ingredients at their peak – for example, herbs should not be past their season, beans should not be overgrown and tough.
• The cooking of raw fruit and vegetables should be timed with great care – we don’t want to present children with food that is unpalatable.
• The garden crops underpin kitchen planning – lots of basil is likely to lead to a pesto-making session; lots of green tomatoes to chutney or pickles. Menu planning will take account of growing timelines.
• Everyone comes together around a table at the end of the cooking to share the meal.