North Coast primary schools are being invited to apply for funding to develop food gardens, thanks to a Commonwealth Government commitment of $12.8 million over four years.

Operating through the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, the initiative is aimed at encouraging the growing of healthy food in up to 190 Australian primary schools.

The program has been welcomed by North Coast Area Health Service’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Co-ordinator, Jillian Adams.

“Since 1998, a number of North Coast Primary Schools have incorporated food growing into their curriculum through NCAHS’s acclaimed Tooty Fruity Vegie program,” she said.

“Eating more fruit and vegetables may be the single most important dietary change needed to reduce the risk of chronic disease, and showing children how to grow their own produce is a very positive step.”

According to Ms Adams, only 12 per cent of North Coast residents eat the recommended 2 fruit and 5 vegetable serves a day.

“Diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of overweight, diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” she said.

“It is estimated that increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables by just one serve a day per person will save the Australian health care system $157 million per year in relation to heart disease alone.” 

Under the incentive scheme, grants of up to $60,000 will be allocated to each approved school participating in the program.

The funding will be used to cover infrastructure costs associated with building kitchens and gardens.

“The focus of the initiative is for primary school students in Years 3-6 to learn how to grow, cook and share fresh food in the belief that this approach will provide a better chance of positively influencing children’s food choices,” Ms Adams said.

Demonstration schools will also be set up in each State and Territory (except Victoria, which already has a demonstration school) to become a model for interested schools to visit and act as a training centre for schools joining the National Pilot Program.

All State and Territory primary schools can submit an EOI for inclusion in the national pilot program.

Interested schools should apply using the form on the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation website