Children at Manumālō-Poutasi Primary School briefly exchanged pens for garden forks last week to plant saladeer, a kind of Chinese cabbage that is delicious in salads.
The school kitchen garden at Poutasi is a part of a project funded under the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and is premised on the belief that to change dietary preferences is a long-term undertaking that needs to begin with children.
Food is an essential part of our lives, providing us with energy and nutrients to grow and develop, be healthy and active, to move, work, play, think and learn.
To stay healthy and productive, the body derives a combination of five nutrients from the food we eat - protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals.
To stay healthy we not only need the five nutrients in our diet but they must also be consumed in the correct quantities and this is what is meant by a “balanced diet.”
Fiber and water are also very important in a healthy diet, as are the vitamins and minerals that are needed in small amounts yet control many functions and processes in the body. Many of these are found in their greatest quantities in fruits and vegetables, which are also an important source of fiber.
Two representatives from the High Commission of Canada were able to attend the first planting of vegetables at the school: Nicolas Sabourin, Counsellor, and Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau, the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) Coordinator. In his opening remarks, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale thanked the officials from the High Commission of Canada for the support that has come to his community via the Tiapapata Art Centre Inc.
“One of the very serious challenges facing communities like ours is the challenge of ill health,” Tuatagaloa explained. “While the children are here, they are like a captive audience; we can start teaching them about good habits, living habits, eating habits. Right now for example, we ban the drinking of soda and the eating of sweet and salty snacks in the school,” he added. Learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, organic vegetables and spices is a powerful way of improving the health of not only the school children but also that of their families and the community.
In his response, Nicolas Sabourin talked about how difficult it is for adults to change their ways, how bad habits that are learned are usually there to stay. “It is very important to start acquiring skills and understanding at your age what makes for good health,” he told the children. “We’ve seen many cases of people who, had they known earlier, would have made different choices and thereby would have avoided becoming obese or diabetic. What’s great about what you are about to do, about what you learn through the garden, is that you will become teachers to your elders.
You will be able to tell your parents that it is not that difficult to grow delicious vegetables and prepare delicious food.” Fakailoatonga Taumoefolau, the CFLI Coordinator, said he was pleased to have made this connection with the Poutasi community emphasising how the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives is very much about supporting development at the community level.
Refreshments were served after planting at the garden and the introduction in a documentary film series on non-communicable diseases produced by Galumalemana Steven Percival of the Tiapapata Art Centre Inc. was shown. The school kitchen garden at Poutasi is a collaborative effort between the Manumālō-Poutasi Primary School, the Poutasi Development Trust, and the Tiapapata Art Centre Inc.
The next phase of the project will be to set up a school kitchen where the children can help prepare and cook meals using food they harvest from the garden. Enhancing school and community knowledge and understanding about food and of the integral role it plays in our physical and social wellbeing is an important outcome of the project.