Children at child care centres often enjoy five main meals and snacks throughout a typical day. This can set the centre up to be the second most influential source of nutrition information for a child (after family).
So it’s no wonder that centres like Endeavour Early Education Dural are taking the nutrition of young people seriously. They have implemented a program that helps children to understand where their food comes from and encourages them to try new flavours from a young age.
Toddle spoke to Centre Manager Lourdes and educator Michaela to find out more about the program (plus they’ve shared one of the children’s favourite recipes below!).
Tell us about your paddock to plate nutrition program
‘Our paddock to plate program is all about getting the children involved in growing and nurturing all different kinds of plants,’ says Michaela.
‘During this process, the children gain an understanding how important it is to take care of plants and our environment, while also learning the different plant life cycles and the stages each plant goes through.
By involving the children in the harvesting process it allows them to gain a sense of enjoyment, as they are able to see their hard work pay off and simply enjoy eating all the yummy goodies,’ she shares.
How did the program come about?
‘Here at Endeavour Early Education Dural we have an amazing outdoor area which has so many different natural aspects that the children all love to play in,’ shares Michaela.
‘Creating a garden with the children was on everyone’s to-do list. All the educators came together and decided on which plants will work in the garden and will be most beneficial for the children.
After this we have not stopped caring for our garden and are constantly planting new plants for the children, so they can enjoy taking care of and eating a vast variety of different fruits, vegetables and even herbs,’ she said.
‘The children love snacking straight from the garden, picking fruit from our orchard trees’
What types of activities do the children get involved with?
‘During the paddock to plate program the children are involved in all the physical steps in regards to looking after our garden,’ explains Michaela.
‘This includes, planting the plants or seeds, watering the plants every day, and their two favourite steps, harvesting the produce and eating it!’
Centre Manager Lourdes shares some of the delicious meals and snacks that the children have prepared. ‘Using the vegetables from the garden the children have made sweet potato oven baked chips with a fresh mint and parsley dip; cheese and spinach triangles with our fresh spinach; and herb breads with our fresh mint and other herbs,’ she explained.
What do you grow in your garden to eat?
‘Currently in our garden we have oranges, lemons, mandarins, nectarines, apples, tomatoes, spinach, mint, celery, sweet potato, strawberries, oregano, thyme and parsley,’ shares Michaela.
‘Over the year as the seasons change we like to plant new plants. Previously we have also grown cucumbers, lettuce and pumpkins,’ she explained.
‘The children love snacking straight from the garden, picking fruit from our orchard trees,’ shares Lourdes. ‘They love the cherry tomatoes, snapping off a stick of celery and munching away, opening up the fresh grown pea pods to eat the sweet peas, picking, peeling, and eating the sweet mandarins, or enjoying a nice refreshing cool cup of fresh lemonade with the juice from the lemons off the tree!’ she shared.
‘Our families benefit too with bunches of spinach, herbs and other produce being sent home regularly.’
What do you hope the children get out of the program?
‘This program is designed to allow the children to be hands-on in the natural environment,’ explains Lourdes. ‘We want them to grow their sense of enjoyment of taking care of their natural environment.
We want the children to be more open to trying new fresh organic fruits and vegetables. By helping us to grow them, this may help to encourage this,’ she says.
Why do you choose to use organic produce for your centre?
‘At Endeavour Early Education Dural we believe that by providing the children with organic produce it will allow them to gain a higher nutritional value in foods, as they are free from pesticides and fertilisers,’ shares Lourdes.
What are some of the children’s favourite meals and snacks?
It sounds as though the program is paying off, when you look at the long list of the children’s favourite meals and snacks!
Favourite meals include:
- Meatballs and couscous
- Lasagna with fresh salad
- Tuna patties with fresh salad and herb dip
- Lamb burgers
- Tuna pasta (see recipe below)
Favourite snacks include:
- Banana and yoghurt muffins
- Banana bread
- Spinach and cheese scrolls
- Fruit smoothies
- Toasted muesli and yogurt
Do the children enjoy cooking demonstrations?
‘The children absolutely love being involved in cooking demonstrations,’ explains Michaela. ‘By doing this, the children are able to take a few simple ingredients from the garden and create something delicious to enjoy together.
By involving the children in cooking experiences it also allows them to learn life skills and encourages group bonding as they work together to make something,’ she shares.
Would you like to share one of your recipes?
We are so pleased to be able to share the recipe from Endeavour Early Education Dural with you today.
Mediterranean Tuna Pasta (serves 8-10)
- 850g tinned tuna in spring water, drained
- 2 whole ripe tomatoes, cored, deseeded and chopped
- ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 red onions, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 4 tbsp capers
- 6 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1kg fusilli pasta
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated, to serve
- Boil the water for the pasta.
- Place drained tuna in a bowl, stir with a fork to break up chunks of tuna, add the tomatoes, red onions, olives, capers, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, stir to combine.
- Add pasta to the boiling water and cook as per packet directions. Once cooked, drain pasta and return to the pot, immediately add tuna mixture and stir all together, sprinkle in the cheese until all combined and it’s ready to serve.
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