A team of researchers from the McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, University of Melbourne and Deakin University conducted a mixed-methods longitudinal evaluation of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program in collaboration with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation as well as twelve participating primary schools throughout Victoria over two and a half years.
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program is an innovative school-based program that offers children in primary school the opportunity to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, nutritious, seasonal and delicious food. The aim of the program is to provide a pleasurable experience that will positively influence children’s food choices, attitudes towards environmental sustainability and working relationships with other children and adults. The program was initiated by Australian celebrity chef, restaurateur and food writer Stephanie Alexander at a single pilot school in 2001 and with the support of the Victorian State Government has been introduced into a further forty primary schools across the state from 2007-2010 and is now also being expanded nationally. Children in grades three to six spend a minimum of forty-five minutes in the garden and an hour and a half in the kitchen each week under the expert supervision and tutelage of garden and kitchen specialist staff respectively. The children work in small groups to create a variety of dishes each week that are inspired by the fresh ingredients they have produced in the garden. Children, staff and the volunteers who have assisted then sit down together to enjoy their meal.
School gardening and garden-based nutrition programs are seen as having the potential to improve children’s nutritional and health status as well as positively influencing social and environmental behaviours. However, until now the evidence base assessing these impacts has been limited, particularly for programs that include a substantial cooking component.
Further information regarding the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program can be obtained from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation Website.
Block K, Gibbs L, Macfarlane S, & Townsend M. Promoting appreciation of cultural diversity and inclusion with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Journal for Multicultural Education. 2015; 9(1); 2-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JME-01-2014-0007
Townsend M, Gibbs L, Macfarlane S, Block K, Staiger P, Gold L, Johnson B & Long C. Volunteering in a school kitchen garden program: Cooking up confidence, capabilities and connections! Voluntas. Feb 2014; 25(1):225-247
Gibbs L, Staiger PK, Johnson B, Block K, Macfarlane S, Gold L, Kulas J, Townsend M, Long C, Ukoumunne OC. Expanding children’s experience of food: the impact of a school-based kitchen garden program. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2013; 45(2): 137-146.
Gibbs L, Staiger PK, Townsend M, Macfarlane S, Gold L, Block K, Johnson B, Kulas J, Waters E. Methodology for the Evaluation of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Health Promotion Journal of Australia. 2013; 24(1): 32-43.
Block K, Gibbs L, Staiger PK, Gold L, Johnson B, Macfarlane S, Long S & Townsend M. Growing Community: the Impact of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program on the Social and Learning Environment in Primary Schools. Health Education and Behaviour. 2012; 39(4): 419– 32.