Across the Globe in Australia, Stephanie Alexander is Growing, Harvesting, Preparing, and Sharing
Hi there. I’m Stephanie Alexander, founder of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, Australian chef, restaurateur, and food writer.
How exciting to be invited to describe what we are doing in far away Australia, and to create links on both the Edible Schoolyard Project website and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation website. This will allow our kitchen gardeners to read all about what your edible schoolyarders are doing. We encourage you to read about our food education movement in Australia too.
I grew up in a family where my grandfather grew much of the fresh food that my mother cooked and served to the family each day. Seven of us gathered at our round table each day and talked, and argued, and laughed, and enjoyed a very wide range of flavours and textures. Subsequently I spent 40 years in the hospitality industry trying to give similar pleasure to my customers, and along the way inspiring my young apprentices and kitchen hands to become food lovers. I wrote books to spread the word that cooking was not hard, and that it was ideal if much of what we ate was local and therefore seasonal.
My next major challenge was to develop a project that would engage the curiosity, the energy, and the taste buds of young children at primary school. This idea of pleasurable food education, with its mantra of Growing...Harvesting...Preparing...Sharing... began in one Australian school in 2001, and is now operating in more than 250 schools across Australia, with further schools planning to become actively involved.
Do visit our website at kitchengardenfoundation.org.au to check out the journey of some of our Kitchen Garden schools. We have big schools and small schools, schools in the cities and schools in the countryside.
Each Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden school must construct an extensive vegetable and herb garden and create or convert a space that can become a teaching kitchen. Every week or fortnight the students have a class in the garden and a double class in the kitchen. The students plan and grow the food, harvest the food, then they learn how to cook their produce. Perhaps best of all, they sit together to enjoy and share what they have made.
Parents tell us how this has changed the behaviour of their children. Teachers tell us how popular the program is with students and how genuine learning results from guided time in the kitchen and garden spaces. And when we visit the schools we can only admire the healthy crops, and be amazed at the delicious dishes we are offered.
No school can achieve this without significant help. There have been partial grants from the government to assist with creating the spaces, there has been help from some corporate partners and some philanthropists. And every school has reached out to its parent body and its wider community for further support.
I know you, as an individual, or as part of an organisation, are part of the very same food movement across the other side of the globe. Let’s keep the conversation flowing on the small but significant differences we each make in improving the awareness and enjoyment of healthy seasonal fresh food, and how it impacts positively on numerous areas of our lives.
Until next time, happy growing, harvesting, preparing, and sharing.