Our schools are cooking up a healthy eating future

With rising obesity and school children regularly missing breakfast, it’s more and more vital to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices.

When two Sydney mums discovered students were going to school hungry and didn’t have the life skills to make themselves breakfast or prepare proper lunches, they felt compelled to make a positive and affordable change.

Food Educators, Joanne Bowskill and Holly Boal, founded ‘Get Kids Cooking’ in 2013 and since then, have cooked with over 60,000 primary students across Australia.

Get Kids Cooking is a curriculum-aligned, hands-on, cost-effective cooking program that builds knowledge, skills and experience to empower students to establish good eating habits early. The program teaches children to cook and to appreciate the value of preparing and eating nutritious food.

Get Kids Cooking complements garden programs schools may already have which encourage students to pick fresh produce to enhance the flavours and continue ‘paddock to plate’ learnings.

Last year on Shark Tank Australia, Holly and Jo captured the imagination of Dr Glen Richards who has since invested $150,000 to support their business.

“Our business has grown from supporting our local area to growing nationally following the success of Shark Tank which has helped scale our business to reach all corners of the country,” said Holly.  

“The important part about our cooking program is that it teaches children the importance of nutrition and how easy it is to use healthy products and create really interesting dishes. Our research shows that children are more likely to try new food if they have made it themselves.

“Research also shows that hands-on learning promotes success in science, numeracy and literacy and develops collaboration and critical thinking skills.”

There are two options:

  1. The Kitchen Kart is a compact, mobile, commercial grade teaching kitchen that includes everything needed to run cooking classes at school. It features an oven, stove top, equipment, cooking utensils and even the kitchen sink!
  2. Cook In A Box brings an easy cooking program to students for a single class, a term or as part of the yearly teaching program. It is a simple module that provides everything teachers need to run a cooking class and it is only $3-4 per student per recipe. There is no shopping required – everything is delivered to school!

The Kitchen Kart and Cook In A Box education kits teach students age-appropriate cooking skills in hands-on lessons. Schools have many options to purchase The Kitchen Kart, including leasing, renting or applying for grants.

“Schools without access to a teaching kitchen, nearby canteen kitchen or module kitchen are still able to use our Cook In A Box modules – you can opt for a lesson that can be taught in a classroom,” says Jo. 

Tried and tested by students at St Joseph’s Primary School, Merriwa, and St Joseph’s Primary School, Bulahdelah, Get Kids Cooking has had remarkable success.

St Joseph’s Merriwa is into its fifth week of the eight-week Cook In A Box program where a suite of eight expertly chosen lessons and recipes have helped students from Kindergarten to Year 6 develop an interest in cooking.

Following a cooking demonstration and safety lesson, students are organised into class groups where they work collaboratively to collect, measure and prepare the ingredients for the meal.

Utilising fresh produce from the school’s garden, students have learned the skills and discovered the joys of cooking Moroccan couscous, stir-fry, corn fritters and scones.

“The program is an easy, cost effective cooking program that has meaningful curriculum links and − best of all − comes with all the ingredients needed and instructions to teach effectively.

“Cooking has never been so much fun and so educational as it is with our students at the moment,” said principal, Helen Whale.

During NAIDOC week at St Joseph’s, Bulahdelah, the school community participated in a one-off cooking class experimenting with bush tucker.

“Linking to the History curriculum, our students loved the lesson using authentic ingredients to make damper with lillypilly jam,” said principal, Joanne Trotter.

Mrs Trotter is eager to continue using the program with other celebrations such as Anzac Day as “the lesson plans and notes were very relevant and reinforced learning in a fun and interactive way,” she said.

Holly and Jo have travelled across Australia attending principals’ conventions, visiting a number of schools in one area, attending teachers’ meetings or community fundraiser events. They will visit Newcastle next year to host a free cooking demonstration to educate children about healthy food choices.

“By 2019, we would like to see our cooking programs and our kitchens in at least 20% of schools in Australia and beat the increasing problem of obesity…63% of children and young adults will be overweight or obese by 2020,” they said.

Get Kids Cooking has gathered national momentum across primary schools and continues to focus on rural areas nationwide.

To find out more about bringing the program to your school, contact the team on 1300 853 357 or email. You can also find them on Facebook @GetKidsCookingAustralia.

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Gabrielle Sutherland Image
Gabrielle Sutherland

Gabrielle Sutherland is the Communications Officer - Content for the Catholic Schools Office.

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