Ground-breaking food education program for early childhood settings commences

Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation new Kitchen Garden Program for Early Childhood

Research tells us that the earlier positive food relationships are normalised the more likely children are to enjoy fresh, seasonal, delicious food into adulthood. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation has adapted its successful kitchen garden program for primary schools for younger children so they can develop positive food habits from as early in life as possible. In 2018 30% of our children (aged 0-12 years) attend childcare or school which has offered a great opportunity for early childhood education settings to influence the eating habits of our youngest generation.

marmion_ave_community_child_care_centre_g_early_years_smallWith support from The Ian Potter Foundation’s Alec Prentice Sewell Gift, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program for Early Childhood offers a framework for developing a whole-service community approach to delivering pleasurable food education to young children. This program is the first of its kind; there is currently no other kitchen garden program for pre-school aged children in Australia.

“The Kitchen Garden Foundation has come a long way since I started my campaign to offer pleasurable food education to primary school children in 2001. I am proud to extend our successful kitchen garden program to early childhood services across Australia so that even younger children can experience the pleasures of growing and preparing food.” Stephanie Alexander AO, Founder of the Kitchen Garden Foundation.

“The Kitchen Garden Program has been independently evaluated twice, showing a statistically significant improvement in the children’s food choices and kitchen lifestyle behaviours. The application of this highly successful program to the early childhood setting embodies the core principles of The Ian Potter Foundation – to foster prevention, long-term-thinking and excellence.” Mr Charles Goode AC, Chairman of The Ian Potter Foundation.

Since 2017, the Kitchen Garden Foundation has collaborated closely on the project with 15 early childhood services. As well, the Kitchen Garden Foundation consulted an advisory committee of leaders and advocates in early childhood education, including representatives from Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA), the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). This collaboration has developed sector-specific knowledge, professional development, resources and other support for early childhood educators running a kitchen garden program.

“It’s very important to us that we develop food education approaches that work for educators, children and families. We want educators to feel supported in establishing and running their kitchen garden program. We’re very proud of this model, which aligns with the Early Years Learning Framework and can be adapted to any early childhood setting in the country.” Josephene Duffy, CEO

Clarendon Children’s Centre – a small, community-owned centre in South Melbourne – has worked closely with the Kitchen Garden Foundation to trial recipes, develop resources and demonstrate how meaningful cooking and gardening experiences can be integrated into an early childhood setting. The Kitchen Garden Program has been embraced by all members of the educator team and this involvement contributed greatly to the Centre achieving an “Excellent” rating under the National Quality Standards for the second time in 2018.

“The Program complements and supports our goals for teaching and learning across all areas and with all ages of children” said Linda Davison, the Centre Co-ordinator. “In particular, it has helped us to embed learning about sustainability, earth sciences, healthy eating and indigenous culture into the children’s everyday, hands-on activities and experiences”.

Children as young as just 12 months of age are routinely engaged in planting, nurturing, harvesting and then cooking food from the Centre’s veggie gardens while children in the preschool group demonstrate an impressive repertoire of cooking skills and a great understanding of the food growing cycle.

The feedback from families about the Kitchen Garden Program for Early Childhood has also been extremely positive. Parents comment frequently about their children’s increased confidence in the kitchen, their willingness to try new foods and flavours and the knowledge that they share with family members at home.
Early childhood services can become members and access the Kitchen Garden Program for Early Childhood at